Thursday, November 1, 2012

Leading from Behind on Trade

Last night, I lamented the last four years of politics-driven US trade policy stagnation and the United States' abdication of its traditional role as the world's global trade leader.  My longwinded essay was admittedly light on links and examples, but did happen to finger Canada as one of several countries that have left the United States in the trade liberalization/leadership dust over the last few years.  Tonight comes a great example of just what I meant:
The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today announced that Canada will soon begin the first full round of trade negotiations with Japan, the world’s third-largest economy and Canada’s fourth-largest merchandise export market....

Known as the Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, the first full round of official talks, which will begin on November 26 in Tokyo, will build on the recently released joint study that found a trade agreement between Canada and Japan could translate into gains of up to $3.8 billion a year in Canadian gross domestic product. The study also found that Canadian exports to Japan could increase by as much as 67 percent and lead to gains for Canadian exporters of goods and services, as well as enhanced investment opportunities. That is equivalent to the creation of more than 26,000 new jobs, and expected to bring strengthened bilateral trade opportunities in a variety of areas, including in Canadian agri-food products and natural resources....

In less than six years, the Harper government has concluded free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Panama, Peru and the European Free Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. In addition to ongoing negotiations with the European Union and India, Canada recently joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Nine FTAs concluded and three - now four - major agreements under negotiation.  Very impressive.  By contrast, since mid-2007, the United States has concluded precisely zero trade agreements, and is currently negotiating exactly one deal, the TPP.  I've repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for not getting Japan into the TPP when it had the chance, and it was great to see that Governor Romney's team announce that, as President, he'd welcome the country - one of our closest allies and largest trading partners - into the only trade negotiations that the United States is now pursuing.

But, hey, maybe if President Obama gets re-elected, we can just count on the Harper Government to push for Japan's inclusion.

Talk about leading from behind.

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