COMMENT: An effective trade policy
It is interesting that any time trade is debated in the House of Commons New Democrats are always accused by the Conservatives of being “anti-trade”. However, as our Trade critic, Don Davies stated in the Jan. 29th debate on the proposed Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement, we believe thatCanadians recognize the importance of trade to our economy and want an effective, strategic trade policy that expands trade opportunities and supports Canadian exporters.
An effective trade policy should also produce good jobs in our communities and encourage the development of value-added production to our many resources here in Canada.
I would say that most Canadians want a trade policy that strengthens our economic relationships with growing economies that add strategic value to the Canadian economy.
We believe that Canadians want trade agreements that preserve our ability to legislate in the public interest, protect our social programs, and promote local economic development.
The NDP Also believes that Canadians want their government to pursue a balanced trade policy that builds trade and at the same time fosters positive democratic development, human rights, and environmental standards, both in Canada and in the nations with whom we trade.
The majority of Canadians care about the process by which we implement trade policy. Canadians want an open, transparent, and accountable process in all aspects of the development of trade policy and agreements.
Canadians want and deserve to be consulted about their priorities and kept advised about the progress of trade negotiations. This is particularly the case as trade agreements have become more comprehensive and increasingly deal with areas of policy that have historically been considered to be of purely domestic concern.
If we analyse Canada’s trade performance since the Conservatives took office in 2006, we find that there is nothing really to brag about.
In 2006, the Conservatives inherited a current account surplus of some $18 billion. Today, after eight years in power, Canada has a current account deficit of $62 billion. That is a negative swing of some $80 billion, an average decline of $10 billion for every year the Conservatives have been in power.
Over the last two years, even as we have pulled slowly out of the global recession, Canada has experienced 23 consecutive months of merchandise trade deficits.
We have also seen an alarming shift in the quality of our exports. Under the Conservatives, there has been an increase in the percentage of our exports that are raw or barely processed, reversing a decades-long trend toward an increase in our value-added products.
The Library of Parliament did a comparison of Canada’s trade performance with 17 other countries around the world between 2006 and 2012, countries that experienced the exact same global recession, collapse in commodity prices, and currency fluctuations. It found that Canada came dead last in current account performance.
The conclusion is obvious. The Conservatives have had eight years to implement their trade and economic policies, and the unacceptable results are there for all to see.
The Bank of Canada has explicitly stated that a major contributing factor to Canada’s stalled economic performance is due to our under-performance on the trade file.
Canada is a trading nation. Our economy is historically, and continues to be, substantially dependent on our export sector and increasingly, with global supply chains and integrated production, on our import experience as well.
It is therefore vital that Canada implement a smart, effective trade policy and pursue well-negotiated beneficial trade agreements with strategically important growing and significant economies that will help Canadian businesses and create good jobs for Canadians.