Changing the Way Canada Does Business

by - Story: 19449

Firstly, I would like to thank Castanet for giving me this opportunity to better connect with the constituents of Kelowna-Lake Country. I'm hoping to use this column as a way of keeping you informed with my opinion on what's happening in Ottawa. Also (Warning: shameless plug) please feel free to visit my constituency office in Capri Mall or log onto my website to let me know how I can serve you better. Anyways, onto the column...

At a time where the economy is robust, the value of the loonie is perpetually surging upwards, and a tentative agreement to the longstanding Canada-US Softwood Lumber Dispute has been reached, it might seem like hyperbole to suggest that Canada needs to partially alter the way that it conducts its international trade policy. But that is exactly what Minister of International Trade David Emerson said to the Standing Committee on International Trade (of which I am a member) earlier this week.

Minister Emerson told the Committee that Canada exists within a series of Global Supply Chains. Within these chains exists the transfer of a massive amount of investment between multiple countries. Canada, being extremely sensitive to international trade markets, needs to refrain from putting too much emphasis on having an inward flow of investment. Instead Canada needs to simultaneously build up its outward flow of investment. To accomplish this, I believe that Canada needs to increase the frequency that it enters into bilateral (or trilateral) trade agreements.

Canada has only entered into one bilateral trade agreement in the past five years. By comparison the US has 12 free trade agreements with 18 countries and Mexico has 13 free trade agreements with 43 countries. For Canada, a country whose economy is so dependant on structured trade rules and regulations, this number is actually kind of shocking.

NAFTA is seen as controversial to a good number of Canadians. While 98% of our trade under NAFTA is positive, the negatives have been devastating to our lumber industry and crippling to its workers. Cynically then, why would Canada want to enter into other agreements that seemingly promise free and fair trade but occasionally fail to deliver either?

To solve this conundrum, we must examine the framework of our international trade agreements and alter their architecture. Canada must enter into agreements guided by multilateral rules-based trade. While NAFTA does offer a dispute settlement resolution mechanism in the form of the often much maligned Chapter 19, NAFTA disputes are adjudicated under domestic law. So that means that no matter how many times Canada beats US trade/lobby interests in the courts, Congress can simply make adjustments to their own laws and circumvent Canada’s ability to fair trade representation. Adjudication under domestic law makes it much more difficult to win any dispute resolution cases.

Make no mistake, from a purely economic standpoint NAFTA has been a Canadian triumph. And yet, its potential seems to constantly be hampered by high-profile and industry crippling trade disputes. So again I ask why would Canada want to enter into trade agreements that might provide economic stimulus but fail to provide adequate industry protection?

Canadian economic interests thrive in a rules based economy. By entering into a greater number of trade agreements and reworking the way that we implement dispute resolution mechanisms Canada can better insure its future economic prosperity.

Simply put, Canada cannot afford to be on the outside looking in while the rest of the world is making deals with one another. Canada does not exist in a bubble and is highly dependent on foreign markets. Our economy is strong but its size is not nearly as great as economic superpowers like the US, China, and Europe. If Canada wants to continue to compete on the global stage it needs to follow the world’s lead and begin to aggressively seek out bilateral trade agreements.

Even if NAFTA has made many people sour, I believe that for Canada, implementing an increasingly aggressive trade policy is ultimately a pretty sweet idea.

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About the Author

The Honourable Ron Cannan was first elected as Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country in January, 2006. He was subsequently elected in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. He is a member of the Conservative Caucus.

On September 13th, 2012 Ron was summoned to be a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and will provide advice to the Government as a member of the Priorities and Planning Sub-Committee on Government Administration.

Ron successfully uses his experience and knowledge as a long-time Kelowna City Councillor and regional government representative to be an effective and enthusiastic champion for his riding and his constituents.

His greatest satisfaction comes from helping local organizations and citizens obtain the support they require from Ottawa. 

He is also dedicated to doing what it takes to ensure that the growing and vibrant communities in his riding continue to thrive and prosper.

He is proud of the partnership and cooperation between federal, provincial and municipal governments which have resulted in significant infrastructure projects including upgrades to Highway 97, expansion of the Kelowna International Airport, a new horticulture strategy for fruit growers, obtaining a full service passport office for Kelowna and addressing critical economic issues such as labour skills shortages.

He works closely with the local Chambers of Commerce and once a year arranges meetings for the Chamber with Cabinet Ministers and senior policy staff in Ottawa to move forward important local issues such as crime prevention and labour skills shortages.

He is also an ardent champion for important community initiatives including homelessness, mental health, women’s resources, and support of arts and culture.

On Parliament Hill, Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade since 2006 supporting initiatives which will broaden the economic opportunities for local businesses and businesses Canada-wide.

In previous parliamentary sessions Ron has been a member of the Standing Committee for Government Operations and Estimates, Veteran’s Affairs, Human Resources and Social Development, the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee, and the Standing Committee for Fisheries and Oceans.

Ron is also involved in a variety of inter-parliamentary organizations: he is Vice Chair of the Canada-US Inter-Parliamentary Group, and a member of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship group.

As Chair of the Conservative Wine Caucus, Ron works with his colleagues across the country to promote the wine regions of Canada.  Ron tabled Motion 218(formerly Motion 601) which supports direct to consumer purchasing of Canadian wine. His motion became Bill C-311, sponsored by MP Dan Albas, seconded by Ron, which was passed into law on June 28th, 2012.

Prior to entering politics, Ron developed a diverse business background as a small business owner and had several years experience in marketing and sales management working with corporations including Coca-Cola, Costco and Corus Entertainment.

Very active in his community, Ron has been a Director for both the Central Okanagan Regional District and the Central Okanagan Hospital Board. Ron also served on the Okanagan University College Access to Training Advisory Board, the Glenmore Elementary School Parents Advisory Council, and the Kelowna Christian School Fund Raising Committee. He was co-founder of the Okanagan Volunteer Festival. Currently Ron is a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club of Kelowna and, along with his wife Cindy, was the honorary Chair of the 2012 Canadian Cancer Society Daffodil Ball.

Ron lives a family-oriented and active lifestyle with his wife Cindy. He is the proud father of three daughters and grandfather to three grandsons. His hobbies include music and sports.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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