Trade Protectionism Would Hurt Canadians More Than Most Others

By Pettigrew, Pierre S. | Canadian Speeches, May-June 2000 | Go to article overview

Trade Protectionism Would Hurt Canadians More Than Most Others


Pettigrew, Pierre S., Canadian Speeches


In recent years -- and particularly in the past few months -- we have heard a great deal about the energetic debate on trade and about globalization generally -- in the media, and even on the street!

I think that this is very healthy, and I welcome it.

I welcome it because I think that, eventually, the more we talk about it, and the more we discuss it, the more we go over all the pros and cons, the more chance we will have of improving our understanding of the forces at work, and of agreeing on how to shape them.

There are those, of course, who believe that the suspension of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Seattle meant a very serious reduction -- if not the end -- of our attempts to complete the unfinished work of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and to continue to harness the rules-based trading system to achieve world prosperity and security.

That is not the case at all. Just as we survived the Y2K scare, we survived Seattle! Lessons are being learned and applied. The work continues.

And the fact, that work has become even more important because we are now into a new era of trade discussions. It is an era I would call "trade-plus" -- trade plus labour, trade plus the environment, trade plus democracy, trade plus reform.

All of these issues must be part of the discussion, because they are all vitally important to our citizens. The debate that has been building over the last l0 years or so is not just about trade and investment: it's about what societies want to become, and what they want to remain, in an era of accelerating change. Technology, trade, investment -- these are just the agents of change. Ironically, those who fear the dark side of change are "throwing the baby out with the bathwater;" they are forgetting that these same forces can -- and do -- bring jobs, development, poverty reduction, rising environmental and labour standards, and a host of positive changes that no one wants to undo.

So, as the debate rages, let us not forget two fundamentals; first, the trade agenda, at heart, is about economic prosperity; and second, it is an integral part of a broader socio-economic agenda -- within our countries, and across borders -- that embraces the range of economic, social and political realities that we face together, ranging from environmental management to cultural diversity to human security.

This is just the latest chaplet in a book begun over half a century ago.

Markets don't exist in a vacuum! Our current international trading system is rooted largely in the hopes of the World War II generation. They wanted to build a more stable, more predictable, and ultimately, a more peaceful world.

That was the sentiment that inspired the GATT -- of which Canada was a founding member -- and it is the same sentiment that drives the WTO.

As governments, we have to remind our citizens of the historic benefits that more open markets have given the world over the past half century. They have contributed enormously to the prosperity and growth of both developed and developing countries. In Canada, the benefits of trade have flowed to every part of society.

At this juncture, we must present a plan for the future that explains how we can build stronger economies and create jobs through trade while still leaving room for national communities to be what they want to be.

This has a special meaning for us in Canada, because, as you know, Canada is now, proportionately, one of the largest trading nations in the world.

Seven years ago, about 30% of our GDP was trade-related, and today that figure is over 43%.

Compare that to the United States, for example, which exports only 11% of their GDP. Proportionately, it's four times less than Canada. Compare that to Japan, which exports only 15% of their GDP. Proportionately, it's a little more than a third of what we do. …

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