Observations from Toronto about Trade: Fortune Global Forum 2018

  • November 13, 2018
  • Scott
  • 0 Comments

In October I attended the Fortune Global Forum, held this year in Toronto, Canada. It’s an invitation event for, primarily, the CEOs of businesses all over the world. The makeup of the event evolves as it moves from country to country – and in Toronto, Canada and the USA were well-represented.

In particular, I was impressed by the public officials from Canada who took part in the conference.  A big debate in the US has been over “free trade” deals. Proponents of the trade deals call them free trade deals. Opponents deride these so-called free trade deals.

But in Canada, elected and appointed officials had a more effective way to talk about trade deals:  preferential access to markets.

A few notes from Justin Trudeau’s prepared remarks:

  • Momentum growing for Canada every day
  • Lowest unemployment rate in 40 years
  • Wages growing their fastest in close to a decade
  • Lowest net debt to GDP ratio in the G7 – providing a strong fiscal foundation
  • Investing in Canadian innovation and communities
  • Lowering middle class taxes
  • Investing $1B in super cluster regions
  • Lowering taxes for small businesses
  • $40B investment in an LNG facility in Vancouver, in partnership with 5 private companies
  • USMCA trade deal progressing – retaining preferential access to North American trade
  • Preferential market access to two-thirds of the world’s nations.  Free trade agreements with every other member of the G7 – and the only G7 member who has accomplished this.

Justin took time to point out that while the world is trending (recently) a bit more protectionist, Canada is charting it’s own path over the same 3 years with trade deals with Europe, the TPP, and with the NAFTA/USMCA deals.

And I look at our own political discussions around trade in the US – and I can’t help but think, who among us doesn’t want preferential access to markets around the world. We all want that for our country, our businesses, and our jobs. I want better access to markets as we grow BP3 around the world.

But when we talk about “free trade” – it doesn’t imply to us that we get a reciprocal agreement, it leaves open the possibility that we’re giving away our right to charge tariffs, without getting anything in return.  I find that difference in terminology very telling in both how we think about the issues, and how we align our political solutions to  our values.

Check out his prepared remarks here:

But is isn’t just the Prime Minister with the gift for explaining this, others in the administration were equally good, such as Navdeep Bains, here:

“It’s not about winning or losing, it is about leading the way.”  And in that same panel session, he referred to immigration differently.  “It’s not just about the individual, it’s about their family. So we make family reunification a key part of moving to Canada.”  Rather than call it “chain migration” – Canada thinks about taking care of a key individual’s family – reunifying them in Canada.

It’s possible for politicians to be a really positive influence on the conversation.  Canada sets a strong example that stands in contrast to how others have tackled discussions of recent political and trade events.  Consider me impressed.

 

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