New name shows commitment to trade diversification

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulates Jim Carr after he was sworn in as International Trade Diversification Minister last week. Carr will continue the efforts of previous governments to reduce Canada’s on exports to the United States.  |  REUTERS/Chris Wattie photo

Sometimes government department name changes are unnecessary and costly political spin jobs.

And sometimes they communicate something worthwhile.

Renaming the federal international trade ministry as international trade diversification seems worthwhile because it appears to signal further commitment by the federal Liberal government to keep expanding Canada’s overseas trade access.

In the light of the hostility that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has shown toward Canada as a trading partner, having the government focus on non-U.S. markets is an extreme need for Canada. It’s good to see that the government gets this, and it’s good that it is signalling to us that it does.

Both Conservative and Liberal governments have embraced trade diversification as a strategic priority, and that’s likely to continue.

Nobody’s got a magical solution to our dependence as a nation and as an export-dependent agriculture industry upon the giant population and economy just to the south of us. However, every percentage of trade we can swing away from the U.S. and toward other markets is one less percentage of vulnerability toward an America that no longer seems like a reliable friend and partner.

The selection of Jim Carr as international trade diversification minister should also be good news for agriculture. He’s a Liberal heavyweight in Manitoba, has a deep background in business and industry and actually understands the importance of farming and agriculture to Western Canada’s and the national economy. That’s not something you can rely upon with ministers from the East, where agriculture is proportionately less important.

Carr is also in Justin Trudeau’s inner circle, which should help to keep agriculture issues on the government’s radar. He’s much closer to the centre than the former international trade minister, the likeable and dynamic Francois-Philippe Champagne, and that is also true of the federal agriculture minister, Lawrence MacAulay. Carr, at least to this point, seems to have easy access to the prime minister’s ear.

There’s lots for the renamed ministry to get done. The post-U.S. Trans-Pacific Partnership has opened new doors for Canada, and they need to be exploited. The Canada-European Union trade offers similar opportunities. There are complications and opportunities around the globe.

However, it’s definitely a hopeful sign for farmers that a political heavyweight, one familiar with Western Canada’s farmers and agriculture economy, is taking over as international trade minister.

(I’m assuming that you, the reader and citizen, me as a reporter and columnist, my newspaper, and most sensible people will soon drop the word “diversification” when talking about the International trade department and minister. It’s a worthy bit of signalling, but just too long to say.)

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