Op-Eds

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 –...
One of the tragedies of the COVID-19 crisis is its devastation of arts and culture organizations in this country. Even with emergency support by the federal government, the future for many of these groups is uncertain. As the economy slowly opens up, crowd restrictions and social distancing will mean galleries, museums and the performing arts generally (theatre, music, dance), will face tremendous challenges. Many see a dim and uncertain horizon ahead as revenues shrink or disappear. Financial struggles were a long-standing a fact of life for the arts community well before the pandemic crisis. Notwithstanding pre-pandemic increases in public funding, including the injection of new money for the Canada Council, public financing for arts...
We talk about saving the world from COVID-19. We also need to talk about saving global bodies like the World Trade Organization. Last week’s announcement of the early departure of WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo creates an opening for some reassessment of its future role. Once considered a paramount achievement in global institution-building, the WTO has been in difficulty since the Doha Round of negotiations collapsed over a decade ago. Endless squabbling among governments over its agenda and the recent paralysis of its dispute-settlement system as a result of U.S. stonewalling has only made things worse. Now comes COVID-19, unleashing new tensions in international trade. On the one hand is the need to keep supply chains...