Free Trade Key Driver for Canada’s Economic Growth
Two public-sector reports issued here over the past two days have both identified free trade as a key driver to Canada’s economic growth.
In a report released on Tuesday, Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade acknowledged that free trade agreements are an essential component to the country’s economic well-being.
The committee called on the Canadian government to increase public involvement and parliamentary oversight of future trade deals as a way to increase the benefits of trade for all Canadians and “to alleviate protectionist sentiments” of which Canada is “not immune.”
Among the committee’s nine recommendations is one in which Ottawa would establish a formal public consultation process “when defining a negotiating mandate in relation to a particular free trade agreement,” and another where the federal government would report to Canadians about the “expected economic, labor, environmental, social and other outcomes” regarding an agreement prior to its ratification.
Five years following a trade deal’s enactment, the government should also commission one or more independent evaluations to analyze the agreement’s outcome, the committee recommended.
“There is currently little oversight of free trade negotiations, (which) can have significant ramifications for workers, business owners and the country at large,” Liberal Senator Percy Downe, the committee’s deputy chair, said in a statement.
“Our recommendations would oblige the government to be more accountable in its pursuit of trade deals and give Canadians greater involvement in the process to ensure negotiators truly represent their interests,” said Downe.
Another report, issued on Monday, does not provide as detailed legislative and policy roadmap to deal making. But it too wants Ottawa to look beyond Canada’s borders to build the country’s economy.
The Advisory Council on Economic Growth, an expert panel Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau established last year to advise the federal government on economic policy, also released a list of recommendations.
The report calls on Ottawa to boost innovation, hasten the establishment of a “highly skilled and resilient” Canadian workforce, develop such key sectors as agriculture and energy, and position Canada as a “central global-trading hub and a nexus for global supply chains.”
Although the expert panel believes Canada has a continental opportunity to kick-start its moribund trading relationship with Mexico — as well as to strengthen linkages with the American business community in response to the protectionist direction of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration — it also wants Canada to focus on “preferential trade” with China, Japan and India.
“Such trade pacts would open up new markets for our companies, help them to achieve economies of scale, raise their productivity, give our consumers greater product choice and lower prices, and accelerate overall GDP growth,” says the report, entitled Positioning Canada as a Global Trading Hub.
By Zhang Dongmiao
Paul Ebeling, Editor
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