Martha Hall Findlay, an MP from 2008-2011, is an executive fellow at the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and chairs the advisory council of the Partnership for Resource Trade; Jean Charest, partner at McCarthy Tétrault and former premier of Québec, chairs the Partnership's steering committee.
Thankfully, international trade is an area where, at least in more recent times, political partisanship takes a back seat. (Mostly.)
There will always be naysayers, but the overwhelming evidence points to trade being better, economically and socially, for both exporters and importers. In almost every case (acknowledging certain continuing challenges with developing countries), the tide of rising prosperity from international commerce, done responsibly, lifts all boats.
For Canada, a major trading nation which, in relative terms, depends far more on trade than many others, the more access we have to other markets the better. Although global multilateral trade negotiations have faltered, bilateral and regional arrangements that reduce tariffs and other barriers have been increasing, simply because it makes economic sense to do so. The recent agreement on the final text of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is very welcome news – for both Canada and Europe.
Canada is a resource-rich country. We produce high quality food, fish, wood products, minerals, energy – and an extraordinary variety of related products and services – that the rest of the world wants. Our various resource sectors provide high-value-added jobs in diverse areas such as agri-science, technical innovation, research and development, engineering and design. Canadians continue to create and build more efficient and more environmentally sustainable growing, extracting, processing and manufacturing methods, which in turn make our products and services more attractive to the world.
Canadians in all of these sectors – the business people, the workers, the growers, as well as the millions of Canadian consumers who will benefit from more access to better-priced European goods – all welcome CETA and look forward to its implementation.
CETA will open the massive European market to more Canadian goods and services. With 500 million people and $17-trillion GDP, the European Union is the world's largest integrated economy area, and Canada's second-largest trading partner. CETA also represents a new generation of treaties, and makes the most of increasing globalization. As its name suggests, it is ambitiously comprehensive in addressing far more than just goods, but services as well, and not just tariffs, but investment and government procurement. CETA means opportunities for Canadian exporters, service providers, importers and consumers, and is forecast to deliver a 20 per cent boost in bilateral trade, the equivalent of creating almost 80,000 jobs. These new trade opportunities will encourage greater diversification of our economy and give stronger incentives to the development of our businesses, products and services.
It also moves both Canada and the countries of the European Union to enhance the human and social dimensions of our relationship, particularly in regard to the environment, research, innovation and culture.
In a world of increasingly interdependent economies, CETA positions Canada well. Strategically, the fact that the Europeans chose to proceed with Canada as a prelude to the US/EU negotiations speaks to how Canada can position itself as a bridge in the important transatlantic relationship between our two continents. And adding CETA to NAFTA – the biggest and richest consumer market in the world with Europe together with the 450 million people of the NAFTA area – puts Canada right in the middle of the biggest trade zone in the world.
The rising economic and political power of emerging and increasingly aggressive economies also creates a much bigger geopolitical challenge. And here, the stakes are very high. What is at play? Particularly with the absence of comprehensive multilateral progress, which countries, or regional blocks, will set the rules of trade? Canada, the EU and the US together comprise 45 per cent of the world's GDP and a third of its trade. Finalizing CETA is a major step in substantially strengthening our hand in protecting our vital economic interests.
Canada cannot wait on the sidelines, but must be a full participant, and CETA is an excellent step forward.
The CETA trade deal is overwhelmingly a good thing for Canada and Canadians, and we encourage those now tasked with finalizing the details and getting it ratified to do so as quickly as possible.