As the new Liberal Government takes over the reins of power from the Harper government it will be interesting to see what has and hasn’t changed in Canada’s approach to international trade policy. The early signs, for those concerned with how new trade and investment agreements impact policy making in the public interest, are cause for concern.
The current debate over the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU typically pits “free-traders” against “protectionists”. Free-trade proponents are depicted as those who accept the alleged benefits of globalization — more jobs for everyone, lower consumer prices and more consumer choices. Protectionists, on the other hand, are characterized as those who oppose any trade and want to preserve today’s jobs and consumer choices at any cost.
Framing the issue in these terms, however, is no longer meaningful. The debate has moved on, thanks both to the work of certain economists, as well as the experience of a number of Asian countries that have pursued different policies.