CAFTA releases wish list for next election

Continuing support for the ‘rules-based international trading order’ is high on the list for Canada’s agricultural exporters

Canada’s agricultural exporters want Canadian political parties to re-affirm their support for the rules-based international trading system.

In the Canadian Agricultural Food and Trade Alliance’s just-released summary of 2019 election issues, the coalition shows no signs of throwing in the towel on returning the world to the rule-based order of just a couple of years ago.

“Despite record agri-food exports in 2018, growth and prosperity are threatened by unprecedented uncertainty and protectionism,” said CAFTA president Brian Innes.

“The global trading system is at risk and whoever forms government this fall must work to uphold trade rules and seek new opportunities through trade agreements.”

The “rules-based international trading order” has been under assault in recent years, with United States President Donald Trump attacking trading partners like Canada and Mexico, starting trade wars with China, attempting to make bilateral rather than multilateral trading agreements and deliberately undermining bodies like the World Trade Organization.

Some have argued that the age of wide multilateral trading agreements has ended, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership likely to be the last formed, and that was completed without the participation of the U.S.

The federal Liberal government has been a strong proponent of the rules-based international trading system, as was the previous Conservative government.

The current government got the Canada-European Union trade agreement passed by Parliament and was an enthusiastic proponent of the TPP. Both of those agreements were originally signed-on to by the previous Conservative government.

International Trade Minister Jim Carr has been leading a charge to rejuvenate the WTO, and that’s something CAFTA wants to see continue.

It also wants to see Canada’s political parties support:

  • passing the revised NAFTA agreement
  • expanding agreements like TPP to include countries like South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia
  • strategically target new trade agreements that have the most promise

While skepticism about world trade is rife in many countries, in Canada most people still view it favourably. For CAFTA, boosting agricultural exports is the only policy that makes sense, since Canada has a small domestic population but a large agricultural output.

CAFTA pointed out that Canadian agriculture exports are already up 12 percent compared to a year ago, before TPP was approved, and exports to South Korea are up 20 percent, following the 2015 free trade deal.

The dark cloud hanging over the Canadian agricultural export industry is China, which is using trade barriers to express displeasure with Canada’s decision to honour a U.S. extradition request for a Chinese tech company executive.

CAFTA isn’t turning away from China. It encourages whoever becomes the next government to work hard at “fostering positive, long- term and mutually beneficial relationships with China.”

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