Leading the Way to Inclusive Global Trade: Canada, the United States, and the World
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Canada has been one of the most vocal countries promoting the concept of inclusive global trade and incorporated this goal in the USMCA and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership. In the United States, President Biden has called for a "trade policy for the middle class" that expands the opportunities for small and medium sized businesses to engage in exporting. Strengthening the rules-based international trading system is important to both countries.
The Wilson Center hosted Canada's Minister for International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, the Hon. Mary Ng, for a conversation on how inclusive trade can be realized in trade agreements and economic policy by both countries and provide a catalyst for a North American economic rebound after the pandemic. University of Toronto Professor Peter Loewen, Director of the Munk School for Global Affairs and Public Policy and Canada Institute Director Christopher Sands engaged Ng and assessed the prospects for a renewed U.S. - Canada partnership for global trade.
Mary Ng discusses the biggest challenges impacting global trade, including the impact of the global pandemic, the digital economy, and great powers competition
“From my vantage point as trade minister there are three big global challenges impacting international trade right now. The first challenge is the lingering impact of the global pandemic. In the first six months of the pandemic, between March and August of 2020, some 97 countries implemented more than 200 restrictions on cross-border trade. Some of those restrictions are still in place. Those trade restrictions are really supply chain disruptions. And the trouble with supply chain disruptions is that they spread. A backed-up port in Asia can lead to empty railcars in Ontario and idle factories in Ohio. And even as the COVID-19 pandemic fades, supply chain disruptions persist. First it was PPE and ventilators, now it’s semi-conductors to breakfast cereals. Global supply chains must flow smoothly and seamlessly, just as they did before the pandemic. Not just at the Canada-U.S. border but around the world. We need greater resiliency throughout the trading system and we need a firm sense of purpose among trading nations in order to counter the pandemic’s lingering and persistent impacts. So that’s the first challenge.
The second challenge is the digital economy. The digital economy is not just a new sector of economic activity. It is now an entire global economy all on its own, running parallel to the traditional economy. And it is not properly supported by existing trade structures. So governments must work together to give structure to the global digital economy. We need common protections for personal data, for intellectual property, for ecommerce. We need common standards for network security and for dealing with online misinformation. Most importantly, we must open cross-border markets for entrepreneurs, for startups, for scale-ups—not just for the big technology firms. The benefits of digital trade need to flow to people and to businesses of all sizes. And that’s our second challenge.
And the third challenge is great power competition. This particular challenge reaches beyond trade, of course, to matters of diplomacy and security. But it can also have tremendous impact on the rules-based trading system. That’s a concern for Canada, just as it is for most countries in the global community. The decisions great powers make in relation to each other can have seismic effects on the rest of us, so we all watch it closely. That’s the third challenge. So, these are the key items on the trade agenda. Rebuild and secure global supply chains, give structure to the digital economy on a global scale—all in the midst of shifting great power relations."
Mary Ng discusses the trade rules that govern the digital economy
“And the next frontier for coalition builders is the digital economy. This parallel economy is growing more than twice as fast as the traditional economy in goods and services. It’s a huge driver of profit and wealth. It’s leapfrogging many of the current structures and conventions that govern trade. A parallel economy needs parallel trade rules. And such agreements are starting to emerge now. New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, recently signed the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, also known as DEPA. This is the right kind of instrument for facilitating digital trade because prior trade agreements haven’t kept pace with digital innovation. And Canada is ready to share such agreements with partners who share our values. Canada has a digital charter to ensure safety and security as well as opportunity. Canada’s privacy legislation has been updated to meet the needs of the digital economy. Our domestic policies have been retooled for the digital world. Canada will be seeking inclusive agreements that give digital entrepreneurs and companies of all-sizes, equitable access to new markets. This kind of inclusion is essential so that start-ups with promising innovations can reach those global markets and scale their businesses. And in sectors where leading companies are among the largest and most valuable in the world, those same entrepreneurs are going to need the protections of a trade agreement.”
Peter Loewen talks about the advantages and risks of cultivating a multi-cultural society
“I think we should be very bullish and very proud in Canada, as we should in the United States, as we should in the United Kingdom, and other similar countries to have built successful multicultural democracies from places that looked much different than they looked, 30, 40, 50 years ago. I think our countries have a real challenge in figuring out what that looks like in a world that is becoming more polarized and in a world that is becoming less democratic on some factors. I think figuring out how some countries like ours deal with diaspora politics, and deal with the fact that we have connection to all over the world, as an obligation. But the flip side of that obligation is we have the great privilege of being connected with people all over the world. We see it in our classrooms, I certainly see it in my children’s classrooms when I look at them. You see it not only on the streets of Toronto but you see it in small towns all over Canada. I think that we have to be very clear eyed about the benefits and the potential risks of having populations that are in and out of our country all the time. But if you could turn back the clock fifty years ago, what would you change? Right? If you saw that this was the outcome. It has been a remarkable blessing, not only to Canada, but to the United States, and other counties that have decided to become more and not less diverse."
Hon. Mary Ng
Bound by common geopolitical interests and strong economic and cultural ties, Canada and the United States enjoy the world's most successful bilateral relationship. The Wilson Center's Canada Institute is the only public policy forum in the world dedicated to the full spectrum of Canada-U.S. issues. The Canada Institute is a global leader for policymakers, academics and business leaders to engage in non-partisan, informed dialogue about the current and future state of the relationship. Read more
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