Trudeau in trade hot seat

The headlines in Ottawa this week were unrelenting:

“Trudeau’s trade deal with China turns into an embarrassment,” and “Trudeau breaks the three rules of doing business in China, leaves Beijing empty-handed” were a common theme from national media.

At issue, primarily, was a press conference in Beijing where it was widely expected that the prime minister would announce Canada and China were entering into formal trade talks.

That did not occur and it is unclear what the current status is of talks between Canada and China that are trade related.

Part of the issue rumoured to be a stumbling block is the Trudeau government’s insistence on  “progressive trade."

 What is “progressive trade?"  

Based on the government’s own definition, it is a trade deal that also has guarantees on topics such as labour, gender and environmental rights that are not normally part of a free trade agreement.

There are many criticisms of this progressive trade policy. As an example, would Canadians accept societal values from another country demanded upon us in order to accept a trade deal?

I suspect many Canadians would not, so it is no surprise that this progressive trade approach has been rejected in NAFTA, TPP and now Chinese trade related discussions.

Why does the Liberal government insist on “progressive trade” language? It has been suggested this language is aimed at Canadians back home for political reasons. Obviously, this is also confusing for our potential trading partners.

However, I believe there is another aspect to this. For example, the Trudeau Liberals have insisted on a national carbon tax here in Canada. In the event Canada enters into a free trade agreement with a country that does not have a national carbon tax, our producers and manufacturers would be at a competitive disadvantage.

Likewise, Canada has significant worker protections with social programs such as EI, CPP, parental leave, medical leave, the right to collective bargaining and more. Other countries, particularly China, do not typically offer similar protections for workers.

As many of these programs are funded, in part, by employers, once again a competitive disadvantage would be created in a free trade agreement.

Canada already has a trade deficit with China of roughly $45 billion annually and growing. Obviously, there also many other concerns related to Chinese human rights and environmental policies or lack thereof as well.

In addition past, cyber-attacks on Canadian Institutions such as Canada’s National Research Council that Communications Security Establishment Canada identified as coming from a “highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor” have yet to be mentioned by the Trudeau Liberals as they continue to negotiate with China behind closed doors.

My question this week:

  • are you in support of a “progressive trade” deal with China?


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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the shadow minister of innovation, science, economic development and internal trade, and sits on the standing committee on finance.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

In British Columbia, Dan has been consistently one of the lowest spending MPs on office and administration related costs despite operating two offices to better serve local constituents.

Dan is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

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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