Canada’s global quest for free trade

| April 5, 2013 | 0 Comments


Canada has signed a trade agreement with Panama. Pictured here is Manzanillo International Terminal in Colon City, Panama.

Over the past two years, I have had the privilege of serving as Canada’s minister of international trade. It has been an incredibly busy and exciting time. Guided by the global commerce strategy (GCS) introduced in 2007, Canada has been undertaking the most ambitious trade expansion plan in our country’s history. The strategy is a concerted effort to secure Canada’s growth and prosperity by seizing our advantages in a fiercely competitive global marketplace.
Focusing on the strategy’s priority markets — large and small — where opportunities for Canadian businesses and interests have the greatest potential for growth and success, we have intensified our pursuit of new and deeper trading relationships around the world. Since the introduction of the GCS, we have concluded and implemented new free-trade agreements with seven countries: Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein (collectively known as the European Free Trade Association), Peru, Jordan (our first with an Arab country) and Colombia. We have also signed an agreement with Panama (a key regional gateway) and concluded negotiations with Honduras. Thanks to these actions and my government’s free-trade leadership, Canadian workers and businesses now have preferred access and a real competitive edge in more markets than at any time in our history.

Karel De Gucht, European commissioner for trade, visited Ottawa during negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

Yet our effort to expand Canadian access to the largest and most dynamic economies of the world has only just begun. Altogether, Canada is currently engaged in 19 free-trade initiatives, covering 74 countries. This number includes the European Union, the world’s largest trading block, representing 27 countries, 500 million people and annual economic activity of more than $17 trillion. It also includes India, a country of more than 1.2 billion consumers, where we expect a trade agreement would increase Canada’s GDP by somewhere in the order of $6 billion per year. We’ve just completed the first round of trade negotiations with Japan, the world’s third-largest economy on a country-by-country basis. Canada has also recently joined negotiations with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an alliance of 11 countries looking to leverage new trade and investment opportunities within the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our ongoing efforts to bolster our commercial relationship with the world’s second largest economy, China.
There is no doubt that the United States and Mexico will continue to be Canada’s most important trading partners. Indeed, our trilateral trade is now more than $1 trillion a year. That said, we all know that this continues to be a tumultuous time for the global economy. Traditional economic giants are seeing new challengers emerge from all around the world. To retain and protect the fragile gains Canada’s economy has made in recent months, our government is in the process of updating the GCS to reflect these shifting global economic realities. We’re targeting dynamic, high-growth markets around the world and working to diversify Canada’s economic interests by focusing on the markets that hold the greatest promise for Canadian businesses — nations such as Thailand and Brazil, where economic growth rates are well above the global average.
We’re also looking to the continent of Africa, where we have recently taken a number of steps to build a firm foundation for more intense engagement. For example, we’re negotiating foreign investment protection agreements with countries such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Tunisia and Zambia and have recently concluded negotiations with Benin, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania. Canada is also currently in free-trade negotiations with Morocco, and I led a trade mission to Nigeria and Ghana in February to help deepen our commercial relationships with these countries.
History has shown that free and open trade is one of the key drivers of a country’s growth and prosperity. Indeed, the Canada we know today was largely shaped by our proud trading history. But trade is by no means a relic of that history. Our refreshed global commerce strategy will provide a roadmap to guide Canada’s future trade activities. It will help re-focus our efforts on proven partners and emerging powerhouses around the world to help Canadian companies, investors, importers and exporters alike to become more successful in today’s increasingly competitive global economy. These efforts reflect our firm belief that when a Canadian company succeeds abroad, jobs and prosperity are created right here at home.

Ed Fast is the minister of international trade and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway.

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Category: Diplomatica

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