Op-Eds

Whew. Canadians are showing unalloyed relief with the results of the U.S. election, ending four year’s worth of chaos, unpredictability and antagonism under President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda. The tone of the bilateral relationship will change 180 degrees under a Joe Biden presidency. Yet when it comes to trade, there are some hard facts that give reason to temper some of this enthusiasm. Here is a short list of items – some good, some not so good – to consider in the days ahead. SUPPORT FOR MULTILATERALISM The Biden administration will reverse Mr. Trump’s disdain and disregard for the World Trade Organization and the multilateral system generally. We can look to the United States removing its veto over...
The established order of things in international trade, the world we have been comfortable with for decades, has been shattered. This is often laid at Donald Trump’s door, given his disdain for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and relish for unilateral actions like tariff surcharges. In reality, the global trading system was in trouble before Trump’s arrival on the scene. He and Robert Lighthizer, his spear-carrier as U.S. Trade Representative, have just been the instruments of disruption, bringing all of the inadequacies and shortcomings of the WTO system to the forefront. Before Trump was elected, I believed that, whatever its shortcomings, the key legal principles and multilaterally respected norms governing the global trading...
As we watch the American election drama unfold, Canadians are generally positive in their view of Joe Biden’s candidacy and the prospects of the defeat of Donald Trump in November. Mr. Trump has been unpleasantly aggressive in dealing with Canada, not only on trade but regarding the broader political relationship, as well. Mr. Trump described NAFTA – negotiated by a previous Republican administration – as the worst trade deal ever, claiming Canada had been ripping off the U.S. for decades. The trade renegotiations with the Trump team were tough and unpleasant. Most recently, Mr. Trump reapplied import surcharges on Canadian aluminum, citing concerns about national security. There were those personal insults directed at the Prime...
Media reports last month signalled a stand-down in trade battles between the United States and China, ostensibly because both are increasingly focused on other geopolitical disputes, over such things as espionage, human rights and intellectual property. By contrast, U.S.-China trade seemed to be emerging “as an area of calm.” I wouldn’t be so sanguine. For decades, it was taken for granted that fixed tariff rates, agreed to under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and later the World Trade Organization (WTO), were pretty much sacrosanct. Governments made formal commitments not to increase their duty rates, meaning in trade parlance that these rates were “bound.” This stabilized the global trading system and was one of its...
The beginning of summer has brought welcome news about Canada’s economy and Canadians’ prospects after a spring devastated by COVID-19. Measures of activity and confidence, even numbers of jobs, are up from the lows of March and April. But we still have a long way to go. Millions of Canadians are still working less than they were, or not at all, and the reopening of the economy will be too slow and sporadic to save thousands of businesses. In past recessions, governments have provided fiscal stimulus, notably through infrastructure projects to speed recovery, so it is natural to hope for a similar spending boost this time. Fulfilling that hope will be a challenge, however. Projects big enough to move the economic needle take time –...