Having narrowly survived the battle with CETA, Canadian leaders are understandably nervous about prospects for TPP which requires the United States and Japan to ratify the agreement. Canada needs to think seriously about a “Plan B” and take control of its own fate. The first step in doing so is for the country to get serious about trade. An effective, clear-eyed and focused trade strategy is no longer a luxury. Canada currently has 11 full foreign trade agreements. This puts Canadian firms at a competitive disadvantage in Asia.
Ultimately, the Wallonian rejection of CETA is not just about what one regional province does in Europe. It is, perhaps, a symbol of the larger discontent with globalization. Saying no and protesting against trade agreements has become the easiest outlet for venting fear and frustration. Especially at a time of slowing global growth, this is deeply troubling. The inability of political leaders to articulate better reasons for moving ahead with trade deals is likely to have lasting consequences—for Wallonia, for Europe, for Canada, and, possibly, for us all.
Concerns over globalization are crystalizing in many developed economies in the form of opposition to trade agreements. One of the largest, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States, is currently in the firing line. Many commentators have now declared the entire exercise dead-on-arrival. Such a dismissal is perhaps too hasty. In spite of strong headwinds, trade officials have continued to press ahead, hoping to lock in as much progress as possible in 2016. As an earlier blog post noted, TTIP is perhaps the most difficult trade agreement attempted. Given relatively open levels of trade between the two parties, both sides are attempting to address thorny sensitive issues that have not been previously tackled and to try to sort out tough new areas of conflicting standards and regulations.