Perrin Beatty is chief executive officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
It's summit season again and Canada's new Prime Minister is headed to the Group of 20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meetings in Turkey and the Philippines. There's no shortage of things to do at home, but if Justin Trudeau wants Canada to take a more active role abroad, it's hard to think of a better time to get started.
In addition to meeting his counterparts – Barack Obama of the United States and Shinzo Abe of Japan say they hope to get some face time with our Prime Minister – Mr. Trudeau has an opportunity to reposition Canada in an increasingly challenged international landscape.
The G20 and APEC summits may have started out focused on bread-and-butter economic issues, but they have morphed into much more. They are boards of directors with considerable influence over broader global and regional agendas – everything from infrastructure finance and employment to energy and the environment. The road to the United Nations climate conference in Paris runs through them.
We all know that multilateralism can be slow, unfocused and frustrating. But this isn't some make-work program for international officials and academics. It's part of a new reality: If Canada wants to benefit from economic opportunities outside our borders, we need to accept that more and more of our national policies will be developed in co-operation with others.
Forums like the G20 and APEC have proven that they can stimulate growth, reduce uncertainty and create a level playing field for business to compete and grow. For example, the G20 helped backstop the global financial system and trade regime after 2008 and co-ordinated the largest stimulus package in history. The Trans-Pacific Partnership got its start on the sidelines of the 2002 APEC summit. With negotiations among the first 12 countries now finished, this year's summit is a chance for leaders to discuss how it can be expanded into a truly regional bloc.
Canada should continue to be at the forefront of these discussions, but also help get results in areas where co-operation has been less easy. But it requires commitment, hard work and, perhaps most importantly, a close partnership with the business community. How do you get companies to hire more workers? Invest in roads and seaports? Monitor their supply chains for bad practices? Reduce carbon emissions? Well, you can start by asking us.
I'll be in Antalya and Manila, making sure the voice of Canadian business is heard. Our members have armed me with a number of priorities they have developed in co-operation with their counterparts around the world. Here are a few:
- Fight climate change by getting countries to commit to credible national greenhouse-gas reductions plans that rely on market-based pricing and technological solutions;
- Stimulate infrastructure investment by creating national road maps of pre-approved, standardized projects with attractive risk-return projections;
- Help small and medium-sized enterprises go global by developing a G20-wide entrepreneurship visa;
- Cut red tape at the border by getting countries to implement the World Trade Organization trade facilitation agreement;
- Enable digital innovation by rolling back growing restrictions on cross-border data flows.
Our businesses have learned that Canada can't win in new markets if all we do is pursue narrow commercial objectives. Countries expect us to show up and sit at the table, but they also expect that we'll make meaningful contributions to the conversation and come up with solutions to the growing number of problems that spill across national borders.
Neither our businesses nor our government can do this alone. As a mid-sized economy in an increasingly uncertain world, Canada's profile abroad and our prosperity at home depends on us working together to shape global and regional developments.