Canadian Trade – Important Policy Shift

By | January 26, 2014

The problem when you have a Canadian Trade Minister like Ed Fast inundating us with press releases all the time is that, when something really noteworthy is issued, it tends to get less attention than it merits.

This may be true of a couple of highly significant reports the Trade Department recently issued, which have not been commented on in policy circles as much as should have been. Pity. These reports give a valuable picture of where Canada stands in international trade, and more significantly, where the Conservatives see Canada going. I would have expected more informed comment on these.

One can quibble over some of the details. And yes, one can claim that all this is just more typical Conservative propaganda. But that does a disservice to the value of these documents.

The first one, “Canada’s State of Trade”, was released late in December. Prepared by economists in the Trade Department, it is a finely prepared report and tells us virtually everything we need to know about Canada’s place in the global economy. While it only has full data up to the end of 2012, it shows in raw numbers how Canada has slipped in relative terms in this highly competitive world.

The second document, “Global Market Action Plan” is the more significant in policy terms. It provides a defined roadmap for Canada’s trade and investment objectives and priorities in meeting these challenges. It talks about “economic diplomacy”, the government’s guiding principle in focussing trade, investment and Canadian business interests, as part of a new global strategy.

Unlike the mushy stuff often issued by the Department previously, this is a welcome change – a proactive and focussed document. It avoids the overly wordy and bureaucratic gobbledegook of similar reports. It does a fine job in identifying Canada’s major target markets with a strategic approach for exploiting those markets. In conjunction with the merging of CIDA into the newly titled Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, this report says how trade, investment and international development should be pursued consistent with hard Canadian economic interests.

For any one involved in international trade and trade policy, you can’t really understand the direction Canada is going under the Harper government’s international business and economic strategy without reading these documents.