By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
LIMA, Peru – Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with mining executives and the Peruvian…
LIMA, Peru – Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with mining executives and the Peruvian president this morning as he puts the new “extractive industries” focus of his aid and foreign policy into practice.
He is expected to take questions from the media in the early afternoon — his first since the Senate expenses scandal boiled over on the long weekend.
Until then, however, he will be talking up Canada’s mining companies and their role in developing countries such as Peru.
The new approach was rolled out last fall, and aims to align Canada’s aid spending more closely with its commercial interests — to much consternation from aid groups who fear Canadian business promotion will take precedence over poverty reduction.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 5:26 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The prime minister and his Japanese counterpart have pledged to work together…
OTTAWA – The prime minister and his Japanese counterpart have pledged to work together to reach a comprehensive free trade agreement between the two countries.
In a phone call on Monday night to congratulate Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his recent election, Stephen Harper noted that enhancing bilateral trade and economic relations between Canada and Japan is important to the prosperity of both countries.
The Prime Minister’s office said Harper and Abe also discussed the potential for energy co-operation and matters of international security.
Additionally, Harper offered his condolences to Abe and the families of Japanese nations who were killed after militants attacked a remote gas plant in Algeria earlier this month.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 16, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The NDP would like you to know that it doesn’t oppose trade.
The NDP has already backed one free trade agreement, with Jordan, and is pushing for expedited negotiations on a deal with Japan. And it’s arguing that Canada should give priority to negotiating similar pacts with India, Brazil and South Africa. Moreover, the party has dropped all talk of rescinding or reopening the North American Free Trade Agreement, a deal the NDP has stridently opposed in the past. And it’s urging the World Trade Organization to re-start global trade talks, which the NDP used to protest against.
“The NDP have always been and are very vigorously pro-trade,” NDP trade critic Don Davies insisted in an interview. Still, he conceded there’s some truth to the Tory charge that — until recently — New Democrats haven’t seen a single free trade deal they could bring themselves to support. ”I think our position in the past on trade deals has been to look at a trade deal, find three or four things we don’t like and then vote against it,” Davies said. ”I’m not sure that that’s the proper way to proceed because any trade deal has pros and cons to it … There’s going to be costs to our economy and benefits to our economy.” But all that has changed under Mulcair. Now, Davies said the party’s policy is to weigh the pluses and minuses of each deal and determine if “overall it’s a net benefit” to Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 2:21 PM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister considers the political situation in New Delhi.
Mr. Harper, who this week urged India in a speech to work harder and faster on trade deals, on Thursday said he realized New Delhi was proceeding as fast as it could. “Are we frustated? I am very clear we need to go farther and faster,” the prime minister told reporters in Bangalore after celebrating the opening of an IMAX cinema. “In my conversations with Indian leaders, they reflect exactly the same thing.”
He said Indian politicians share his concern but are hamstrung by a coalition government and the need to win approval from partners. “What we do have to realize when we deal with India as opposed to some other countries we’re dealing with in the developing word: this country is a democracy,” the prime minister said. “And that means governments cannot simply dictate a whole set of policy changes to happen the next day. That means governments must develop public consensus behind policy change.”
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 5:06 PM - 0 Comments
Prime Minister Stephen Harper still has a couple of days in India—he’s headed to Bangalore tomorrow for the last leg of the trip—but there are no more meetings with high-level government officials on the schedule, so it’s safe to say the important part of the Canada-India rendezvous is over.
Coverage of the trip has been drowned out by the U.S. election—something that might suit our notoriously secretive PM just fine—and journalists seeking insight into the trade mission have been fed little besides Samosas. To help Maclean’s readers makes sense of it all, here’s an Econowatch primer based on news reports and interviews with three of Canada’s top trade experts: Carleton University’s Michael Hart, the University of Ottawa’s Debra Steger and the Conference Board of Canada’s Danielle Goldfarb:
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. And so the fate of the nation seems to be found in the fine print of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Partnership Agreement. In there is either our bountiful prosperity or certain doom.
“Mr. Speaker, under the Prime Minister’s new Canada-China investment agreement, the Chinese state would have the right to buy up new oil leases and expand operations in Canada,” Thomas Mulcair announced this afternoon, leaning in then for emphasis, “as if it were a Canadian company. Any effort to limit ownership by China could be challenged, under the law.”
Great amounts of our democracy have lately been devoted to the affairs of China. And on this FIPA there are demands for still more debate.
“Let us be clear,” Mr. Mulcair ventured. “The Prime Minister is exposing Canada to a scenario in which the Government of China could sue us if the Government of Alberta refuses to sell off its natural resources.”
Now the NDP leader turned to directly face and stare down the sitting Prime Minister.
“Is this how Conservatives stand up for Canada?” Mr. Mulcair begged.
Mr. Harper begged to differ. Which is to say he disagreed fully and entirely. Continue…
By Michelle Tarnopolsky - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:13 AM - 0 Comments
In a tough economy, one Italian restaurant lets customers barter for their meals
At the Vatican this month, a restaurant owner scaled St. Peter’s marble-clad dome and refused to come down to protest the austerity measures driving Italians to new heights of desperation. The stunt made headlines around the world. The owners of another restaurant, L’è Maiala in Florence, have found their own unique, if not quite so ostentatious, way to grapple with the dire state of the economy: they’re turning to an archaic form of payment, the barter system, as a way for cash-strapped diners to pay for their meals.
“People keep calling to see if it’s real,” says manager Donella Faggioli. “They think it’s just a publicity stunt.” It’s real all right. Customers of the traditional Tuscan trattoria, which opened just north of downtown Florence on Sept. 21, can pay for all or part of their meal with five kilos of tomatoes from their garden, say, or the postwar end-table they inherited from nonna.
The eatery’s name means “it’s a female pig”—Florentine slang for “it’s tough,” an expression growing in popularity during the financial crisis. At L’è Maiala, prospective trades are agreed upon when making reservations. Establishing the value of the food and wine on offer is easy—the staff is already familiar with fair market prices. “At any rate, it is bartering; it’s an offer, a request,” says Faggioli. “The client can always say, ‘No, I’m not giving this to you for that price.’ Just like I can say, ‘No, I can’t accept that,’ for whatever reason.”
So far, most diners have offered bottled foodstuffs like wine, olive oil and preserves in exchange for their tripe, ribollita and, of course, pork prepared in a variety of ways. The name of the 40-seat restaurant has also prompted patrons to contribute to the swine-inspired décor. “I love that one guy decided to paint a pig on a vase and bring it to us,” says Faggioli. “People are having fun. It’s interesting, different.” And a welcome option for Florentine foodies who are being forced to be frugal.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 15, 2012 at 5:25 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Conservative MP Dan Albas, still new to this place and apparently not yet exhausted of all ideals, lamented last week that the 35 seconds allotted for each response in Question Period were not nearly sufficient to explain the obviously complicated matters of national governance. “While it is possible to ask a meaningful question in 35 seconds,” he explained, “I am certain most would agree that when it comes to governance, very few answers can be given in such a short timeframe.”
Perhaps this explains why the Harper government has spent tens of millions in public funds on television advertisements to explain itself to the public. Perhaps that’s why Diane Finley, questioned repeatedly in the House about a flaw in her reforms to employment insurance, decided to announce a change in her plans via news release on the Friday afternoon before the House went on break for a week.
For sure, difficult questions are not easily answered. Witness Gerry Ritz, who, for another day, was asked not only to explain why the nation’s food safety system hadn’t prevented 15 people from getting sick, but also if he would just go ahead and resign. Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 10:02 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Statistics Canada says Canada’s trade deficit with the rest of the world…
OTTAWA – Statistics Canada says Canada’s trade deficit with the rest of the world grew in July to $2.3 billion, up from $1.9 billion in June.
StatsCan says Canada’s merchandise exports fell 3.4 per cent and imports decreased 2.2 per cent in July.
The agency says exports fell to $37.7 billion, mainly because of lower shipments of energy products.
Imports fell to $40.1 billion, with lower imports of energy products as well as machinery and equipment.
Exports to the United States fell 5.0 per cent to $27.4 billion in July, while imports declined 2.1 per cent to $25.3 billion.
The trade surplus with the United States decreased to $2.1 billion in July from $3 billion in June, the smallest surplus since October 2010.
Imports from countries other than the United States decreased 2.4 per cent to $14.7 billion in July while exports rose 1.2 per cent to $10.3 billion leaving the trade deficit at $4.4 billion, down from $4.9 billion in June.
By Aaron Hutchins - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 2:26 PM - 0 Comments
The former enemies are big trading partners. Could military co-operation be next?
Americans used to burn Vietnamese shirts; now they buy them. They also buy shoes, wooden furniture, nuts and leather goods. Vietnam isn’t only a seller’s market; it also imports merchandise from the United States, everything from machinery to cotton and cars. Who knows? Perhaps some of those cars are built by some of the one million Vietnamese-Americans living in the U.S.
It’s hardly the same relationship that existed when Marc Leepson returned home to New Jersey after a year-long tour in Vietnam in December 1968. “For so long Vietnam was a war,” the U.S. veteran says. Today, in some ways, “it’s like any other country,” he says. “But of course, it isn’t.”
Nearly 40 years after a war that lasted decades and took more than three million lives, the once bitter enemies are now financial buddies. Two-way trade hit US$21.5 billion last year—more than 10 times what it was a decade ago. And trade continues to thrive this year, despite growing concern over Vietnam’s human rights abuses. Indeed, the U.S. has become the largest importer of Vietnamese goods.
By Gustavo Vieira - Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 3:09 PM - 0 Comments
Canada is set to join negotiations for a massive free-trade agreement with nine other…
Canada is set to join negotiations for a massive free-trade agreement with nine other countries, including the United States, Australia, Singapore and Chile.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in a statement on Tuesday the current members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed to accept Canada into the talks of the potential deal. On Monday, the previous negotiating members of the TPP had agreed to invite Mexico to the talks.
A statement from the PMO was released Tuesday from Los Cabos, Mexico, where Harper is wrapping the G20 summit. With the inclusion of Mexico and Canada, a potential free trade agreement with the other countries in the TPP–the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and Vietnam–would account for 658 million people and a combined GDP of $20.5 trillion.
Harper’s official words in the statement said “joining the TPP would provide greater economic opportunity for Canadians and Canadian businesses.” Critics of the government’s voracious appetite to close free trade deals were quick to respond. The Liberal Party’s international trade critic, Wayne Easter, released a statement calling on the government “to be transparent and provide details of this trade negotiation,” singling out the preservation of Canada’s supply management system.
Industry Minister Christian Paradis said before question period, “We always said that we stand by supply management,” the CBC reports.
The Globe and Mail found a number of experts and critics who suggested many issues will remain contentious for Ottawa on the TPP negotiating table.
By John Geddes - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
It can’t be a good moment for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to have the U.S. welcoming Mexico into the free trade talks called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, given that the Canadian government has been pleading for a seat at that particular negotiating table.
News that Mexico, but not necessarily Canada, would be admitted to the TPP process during the G20 summit on Mexican soil at Los Cabos this week was broken last week by a specialized Washington online trade newsletter. Asked about that report last week, International Trade Minister Ed Fast’s press secretary, Rudy Husny, declined to “comment on speculation.”
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 11:24 AM - 0 Comments
On April 2, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney stepped in front of a business crowd in Waterloo, Ont. to speak about the state of Canada’s foreign trade. His message, more or less, was this: we need to break our national reliance on exports to the U.S.–the country is a wounded behemoth, and we would do better to focus on trade with economic up-and-comers. By that the governor probably meant the likes of China and India. But by looking at our trade numbers, one would think Canadian exporters are taking it to mean the U.K. as well.
Over the past decade, the value of Canadian exports to the centre-piece of the Commonwealth have skyrocketed. In 2011, they hit a record high of $18.8 billion, up more than 324 per cent since 2002. The U.K. is now Canada’s second biggest export partner–while China is only third.
By Erica Alini - Monday, April 9, 2012 at 3:59 PM - 0 Comments
With the release of Statistics Canada’s annual review of merchandise trade last week and Bank of Canada chief Mark Carney’s remarks at the Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce days earlier, there’s been a lot of talk about Canadian exports recently–and a number of interesting charts to illustrate where the problem lies.
Carney, for example, turned up this graph to show how, unlike in most previous post-recessionary periods, exports haven’t played a major role in pulling us out of the doldrums this time:
By Paul Wells - Monday, April 2, 2012 at 2:47 PM - 0 Comments
An extraordinary speech today from Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney. Since it draws on trends that are years in the making, and analysis that would have been done some number of weeks or months ago at the Bank, one suspects it has much to do with Harper’s recent turn to China and the rest of Asia.
In a speech today to the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, Carney flattered his hosts for a minute and then said Canadian recessions have always been cured, eventually, by export-led recoveries. But not this time.
“Exports still have not regained their pre-crisis peak, and in fact remain below their level of a decade ago. Canada has steadily lost global market share throughout this period.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 2:39 PM - 0 Comments
The prepared text of the Prime Minister’s remarks in Davos today.
“Thank you Professor Schwab for that kind introduction, I also want to thank you particularly for the invitation to speak here that you extended to me earlier this year. But more than that, Professor, you have made the World Economic Forum an indispensable part of the global conversation among leaders in politics, business, and civil society. And in the face of continuing global economic instability, the opportunity this gathering provides is now more valuable than ever. So I know everyone here joins me in thanking you for, in service of the common good, your vision and your leadership.
“My Greetings to Ambassador Santi; to the Governor General of the Bank of Canada, known internationally as Chair of the Financial Stability Board, Mark Carney; to our hard-working Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast; and to the best finance minister on the planet, Jim Flaherty. And let me just say that I’m especially proud to see so many outstanding Canadian business leaders making their presence felt here in Davos.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I will use my time today to highlight Canada’s economic strengths and to frame the choices we face as we work to secure long-term prosperity for our citizens in a difficult global environment that is likely to remain so.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 25, 2011 at 3:37 PM - 28 Comments
Like Rob Merrifield earlier this week, here is the question Conservative MP John Weston asked this morning of the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of International Trade on behalf of his constituents in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
Could the parliamentary secretary please explain to the House how the NDP views trade?
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 11:17 AM - 3 Comments
The government was fairly adamant yesterday that it would defend supply management. Steven Chase imagines how they might reduce tariffs without abandoning the system entirely. Stephen Gordon considers how difficult it would be to scrap it.
The ideal solution to the problem would be to invent a time machine, go back to the 1970s, and tell policy makers what a terrible mistake they were about to make. Sadly, this is not possible. So how can we reduce dairy prices without ruining present-day dairy farmers who bought their quotas in good faith? One option — as described in this CD Howe proposal – would be to slowly increase the number of quotas over a long period of time, so that they gradually lose their value. When they are essentially worthless, there would be little loss in abolishing them.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 11:33 AM - 26 Comments
In Colombia yesterday, the Prime Minister attacked critics of free trade with the country.
“No good purpose is served in this country or in the United States by anybody who is standing in the way of the development of the prosperity of Colombia,” said Harper. ”Colombia is a wonderful country with great possibility and great ambition. And we need to be encouraging that every step of the way. That’s why we have made this a priority to get this deal done. We can’t block the progress of a country like this for protectionist reasons.”
… Opposition to the trade deal has come from critics such as the federal NDP in Canada. Similarly, U.S. lawmakers have dragged their feet on approving a similar free-trade deal with Colombia, citing concerns over human rights. But Harper scoffed at those concerns, calling them a phony excuse. ”I think there are protectionist forces in our country and in the United States that don’t care about development and prosperity in this part of the world. And that’s unfortunate.”
When I was reporting this piece on the House of Commons, MPs were debating a deal with Panama. The discussion I sat in on then—including debate between Scott Brison and Peter Julian and later Joe Comartin and Brad Trost—dealt with many of the same points of contention.
By macleans.ca - Monday, July 18, 2011 at 4:12 PM - 32 Comments
By Colby Cosh - Monday, June 6, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 29 Comments
Australia abolished theirs. Are we next?
In 2008, the Australian Wheat Board, still staggering from a scandal over kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, was stripped of its powers as the sole lawful bulk exporter of that country’s wheat. This left Canada as the lone developed nation with a legally protected “single desk” export buyer-seller—the Canadian Wheat Board. With a minority government in Ottawa, the board’s grip on Prairie wheat was unshakeable. But now Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have a majority, with the corresponding freedom to rewrite statutes. And they intend to take Canadian wheat growers down the same path as Australia.
The AWB’s monopoly was killed off with the support of the two biggest political parties in Australia’s proportional, bargaining-driven legislative system. The board—with the monopoly still intact—was taken private in 1999. But when the Iraq controversy exploded in 2005, the AWB was banned from dealing to a major customer as criminal and administrative inquiries ground on. Poor financial results turned ugly, and the crisis demonstrated that while a single desk may give growers leverage, it also crowds all the proverbial eggs into one basket.
That is precisely the source of contention in Canada, where board reform has been urged for decades by an enterprising minority of growers eager for marketing choice. Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz wants to introduce legislation to eliminate the CWB monopoly this autumn and hopes to have a free-trade regime in place by August 2012. He faces tricky choices about how much vestigial regulation to impose on the Canadian wheat market (which exports 16 to 20 million tonnes in a typical year) and the transport system it depends on. He will also have to look at other functions of the wheat board, such as research, standardization and forecasting, and decide whether to leave them with the CWB, parcel them out to independent agencies, or let the market sort them out. The Australian Agriculture Department now funds these peripheral mandates by taxing wheat exports at 23 Canadian cents a tonne.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, May 2, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 4 Comments
U.S. and Canadian business groups are urging their governments to coordinate rules and ease restrictions
As Target Corp., the mass retailer of trendy housewares and clothing, prepares to open hundreds of stores across Canada in its first non-U.S. expansion, it has started to grapple with the realities of doing business across the border. In a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, dated April 18, two Target executives bemoan conflicting regulations between the U.S. and Canada in areas such as product standards, testing facilities, customs procedures and documentation. “For example, the safety requirements and test methods applicable to camping tents are markedly different between the U.S. and Canada, making it difficult and cost prohibitive to provide the same product in each country,” wrote the vice-president for government affairs, Matt Zabel, and vice-president for compliance, Canada, Anthony Heredia. “These differences may result in higher consumer costs, or reduced selection.” They called on the Obama administration to focus on “greater regulatory coherence” with Canada that would “increase cross-border investment.”
The Target letter was one of 30 submissions the Commerce Department received after asking for public comments on “regulatory co-operation that would help eliminate or reduce unnecessary regulatory divergences in North America that disrupt U.S. exports.” The request for comments came after a February meeting in Washington at which President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched two joint initiatives to ease cross-border trade and travel: an overhaul of border management aimed at creating a system of “perimeter security”, and an attempt to harmonize some regulations between the two countries to help ease trade. The leaders created two working groups, one on border management and the other on regulatory co-operation, led by senior government officials, whom they instructed to hold public consultations and produce detailed action plans for each government.
The stakes are high. Canada and the U.S. have the world’s largest two-way trade relationship, worth $645 billion a year. Three-quarters of all of Canada’s exports go to the United States, and border delays cost the economy billions each year. As well, Canada is America’s largest market, accounting for one fifth of all exports, and Obama is also searching for ways to boost that trade. In his state of the union speech last year, he set a goal of doubling overall U.S. exports in five years in order to spur job creation in the struggling American economy.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 10:26 AM - 0 Comments
A quarter of Canada’s wheat exports go into noodle production
The race is on to create noodle-perfect wheat. The University of Manitoba, for example, plans to use ultrasound technology to study the texture of doughs used in noodle-making, and single out the best wheat for the job. If successful, says Martin Scanlon, a professor in the department of food science, it could help bring to the market new varieties of highly competitive Canadian wheat-for-noodles in as little as five years. Tellingly, the federal government’s Canadian Grain Commission has a research program devoted to developing wheats that fit the “colour, appearance, and cooked texture” of noodles.
The heightened interest reflects a broad trend in global trade. Canada’s wheat exports have been shifting east, with Asian markets now absorbing about half of our wheat exports, a quarter of which go into noodle production. Last year, Canada sold almost $1.5-billion worth of wheat to Asia, which was three times its exports to European Union countries. “The traditional view of Canada as the breadbasket of the world is not entirely correct anymore,” says Scanlon. And while much of our Asian wheat exports currently turns up in Japanese noodle bowls, trade flows to the region are likely to grow thanks to the increasingly deep pockets of Chinese consumers, says Graham Worden, senior manager of technical services at the Winnipeg-based Canadian Wheat Board. China has traditionally pursued a policy of self-sufficiency on wheat, but the local crop tends to be cheap and rather low quality, says Worden. The hope is that the Chinese will develop a large appetite for high-end noodles, only made possible, say experts, with top-quality wheat.
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Proponents of big trade missions claim the trips lead to billions of dollars worth of business deals, while critics dismiss them as hollow photo ops
Memo to the next politician who plans a high-profile trade mission overseas: don’t bother. That’s the conclusion reached by Keith Head and John Ries at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business after poring over years of trade data.