Weekly Commentary  

Trading places

I've been with the Prime Minister this week on his Asian trade mission. Here's a quick overview for you.

Geneva: Before joining the PM I took part in the WTO (World Trade Organization) Annual Meeting in Geneva. Trade Ministers from over 150 countries talking about tariffs and dispute settlement mechanisms may not be your idea of a fun time (not mine either).

However, there is no question about the overall results of liberalized trade between countries. As countries reduce and remove the penalties and barriers that block trade between them the overall levels of prosperity and standard of living go up.

No economic system is perfect, because it's designed by human beings. However, more full time and part time jobs are created between nations that are open to trade than in those nations who tend to be protectionist and closed to trade.

Also, a few years ago a group of developed countries (including Canada) put money into a development fund to assist the Least Developed Countries (LDC's) in the WTO to help them put together their own trading, border and anti-corruption systems. So it meant a lot when the Ministers of some African nations took the microphone in Geneva to explain the benefits of a rule-based free trading system.

One explained to us that just over two years ago it could take a truck as long as three days to be permitted to cross their own border to deliver its goods. The effects of a system of bribes and gross inefficiency resulted in the cost of trucking being insanely high, hurting local farmers and producers who couldn't ship their produce quickly.

Now, having figured out how to deal with corruption and gross inefficiency, trucks cross their borders in as little as three hours. That means local farmers and producers can grow and ship fresh produce across those borders in a safe and timely way, creating jobs and stronger local economies.

Also at Geneva the LDC's themselves announced that they were eliminating 70% of their tariffs! They did this to show the developed countries that if the poorer countries and their workers were confident enough to reduce trade barriers then the developed ones (think Canada, USA, France), should also.

Remember the famous quote, "Don't just give a poor man a fish. If you really want to help him, teach him how to fish." Well guess what? A lot of these poorer nations have learned how to fish! Or how to build things, or grow things.

Now there is a tendency among some wealthier nations to want to put up trade barriers to keep out the product of the poorer workers. That's why freer trade needs to happen. Let's give everybody a fair chance.

Beijing: With the PM leading the team, headway was made on a number of important issues. We got increased access for our farmers to sell beef, pork and canola into China.

We also got China to grant us Approved Destination Status (ADS) for tourism. This was a major step forward which will see Chinese tourism numbers to Canada move up big time.

The PM also was able to establish enhanced relationships with the President and Premier of China.

Shanghai: This city is now the busiest merchandise port in the world. It's a 'town' of over twenty million people. The PM did the official ground breaking of the Canada Pavilion which will be visited by millions of people during the Shanghai World Expo next year.

While in Shanghai we also advanced and promoted our Asia Pacific Gateway ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. We also signed agreements related to trade, the environment and energy.

Hong Kong: Similar significant advancements on trade and democracy issues by the PM. I had the honour of signing a travel exchange for young people 18-30 to travel and work in Hong Kong or Canada for a year.

The Prime Minister gave an inspiring speech and laid a wreath at the Annual Service of Remembrance for our Hong Kong veterans, of whom my grandfather was one.

Seoul, Korea: The PM showed support and solidarity for the Republic of Korea, going to the demilitarized zone bordering North Korea and also giving a landmark speech in the Korean Assembly. His meeting with Korea's President opened doors of trade through our Asia Pacific Gateway ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

I held round table meetings with leaders of Industry, Investment and Energy companies. All in all, the entire trip by the Prime Minister is already being heralded as a major advancement of Canadian and Asian interests.

Oh, I should mention one last trade deal. I bought an Asian pearl necklace for Val at an amazing price. Shhh, don't tell her, it's a surprise.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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