A Trading Nation: Canadian Trade Policy from Colonialism to Globalization

Article excerpt

CANADA

Canadian trade policy from colonialism to globalization

Michael Hart

Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2002, xv, 556pp, $85.00 cloth (ISBN 0-7748-0894-2), $29.95 paper (ISBN 0-7748-0895-0)

The work of historians and bureaucrats ought to be complementary; in practice there is not enough dialogue between them. Michael Hart bridges the scholarly and policy-making communities with ease. In his latest book, A Trading Nation, Hart has written an authoritative and comprehensive history of Canadian trade policy. His account is essential reading for anyone interested in Canadian political, diplomatic, and economic history, American and British trade policy, Canadian-American relations, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the history of international trade and economic thought, or the policy-making process. The book is accessible to the non-specialist, detailed without being tedious, far-reaching in its relevance, chock-a-block with definite opinions, and full of provocative prescriptions.

A Trading Nation sets a high standard for those writing about Canadian external policy. Hart situates trade policy within the larger contexts in which it is both formulated and implemented: economic, political, and diplomatic, as well as domestic and international (North American, North Atlantic, and global). Consequently, this work tells us much about Canada's evolution as a nation, in particular the emergence of a distinct North American identity, as well as Canada's place in the world as an active, sometimes effective, if nonetheless small, player. The method Hart employs is genuinely international; he examines American and British trade history in their own right and over many centuries. When he analyzes the relations, reactions, and interconnections that influenced Canadian trade policy he does so with a clear understanding of the points of view, interests, and objectives of Canada's principal trading partners and allies. In fact, in parts of the book, the analysis of the Uruguay round of the GATT, Canada barely figures, perhaps implicitly making the point that Canada is one small part of a global economy. The result is a work that speaks to an international audience, not just a Canadian one.

As a seasoned policy-maker himself, it is not surprising that Hart traces the tension between bureaucrats and their political masters. He argues that politicians, by introducing emotional and political factors into the policy-making process, lead trade policy astray. However, when trade policy is the product of rational and focused bureaucratic deliberation, the political will to implement it can be absent. Professionals must have political support, and politicians require a trade policy that meets the needs of their constituents. Hart understands the political imperative, but his sympathy is with the professional policy-makers whose task is to solve specific problems. …