Skip to contentSkip to navigation

Variety is the spice of life: Canada’s wake-up call

Written by

Troy Aharonian

Intern

Prior to joining NATIONAL, Troy worked at the Liberal Party of Canada and the Office of the Minister of International Trade.

Although our country’s signature has barely dried on the newly renegotiated and renamed NAFTA, now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Canada should continue moving on the trade front. While politicians in Ottawa and Canadians will debate the merits of USMCA and the government’s negotiating performance in the coming weeks and months, the country seems to agree that Canada would benefit from trade diversification. Fortunately, Canada is well positioned and the Liberal government is keenly aware of the country’s trade needs. This past July in a mid-summer cabinet shuffle, Jim Carr became the newly titled Minister of International Trade Diversification while Mary Ng was handed the beefed up Small Business and Export Promotion portfolio.

However, even before the name change, International Trade was essentially dedicated to diversification as the NAFTA file was under Foreign Affairs. While working for François-Phillippe Champagne last year, the then Minister of International Trade, I got a firsthand look at Canada’s many trade initiatives across the globe. Minister Champagne was hardly ever in Canada, let alone Ottawa, because he was in Colombia strengthening ties with the Pacific Alliance countries in Latin America or in Europe making sure the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was proceeding accordingly. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was another area of focus for Minister Champagne and will likely continue under Minister Carr.

Conservatives pioneered and continue to support diversification efforts such as CETA and the CPTPP. They criticize the Liberal’s style, priorities and pragmatism but agree with the broad goal of these initiatives.

Even the historically trade-wary NDP appear to have diversification on their mind. This week, the New Democrats attacked the USMCA’s contentious “non-market economy” provision that commits any partner seeking a free-trade pact with a non-market economy to give its USMCA counterparts an opportunity to review it and assess its impact on them, and to decide whether amendments are required to address concerns. The NDP’s trade critic said Canada was being held “hostage” over trading with other countries.

While Canada's major political parties often disagree on specific elements within agreements, there seems to be consensus among most political leaders that Canada is a trading nation and developing trade with non-U.S. partners would benefit its economy. As Perrin Beatty, the President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said this week, “This is a wake-up call. It is important that we don’t simply roll over and go back to sleep. We must never allow ourselves to rely so much on one market.” It’s time to diversify.