There is no doubt that completion of negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), announced in October, is a major economic milestone for Canada. Gains of up to $12 billion a year are impressive and duty-free access for 98 per cent of Canadian goods to a market of 500 million people is a big deal.
In the recent Speech from the Throne, the federal government announced a variety of initiatives but the one that drew much attention was its ostensible consumer-friendly tack.
On some consumer issues, the Conservative government has the right instincts, promoting competition within the cellphone sector for example, even if its approach to the upcoming wireless spectrum auction is flawed.
In other places, the Harper governments predisposition is counter-productive.
For instance, ponder the federal governments desire to micromanage how airlines double-book seats.
Canada's lagging intellectual property (IP) protections for pharmaceutical innovators are a key issue to be settled in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations with the European Union. They may also play a role in upcoming negotiations for the multi-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Two new essays on the cost and benefits of stronger protection suggest Canadians would be far better off, in both economic and health terms, with an IP protection regime for pharmaceutical innovators that was more closely aligned with international standards.
Whenever Canadians cross the border, it is inevitable they will find cheaper goods in the United States. Whether milk, books, electronic goods or vehicles, it seems bargains abound south of the 49th parallel.
The Canadian Senate has just done a bang-up job of adding hard data to anecdotal observations on this issue. In a recent report, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance found several reasons for higher Canadian prices, including higher regulations in Canada and higher taxes. (The latter explains the difference in gasoline and diesel prices at the pump, for example.)
With Barack Obama earning another four-year term, Canadians can only hope the newly re-elected American president will stay the course in modernizing the Canada-U.S. border and make good on commitments outlined in the Beyond the Border agreements.
One positive sign is the endorsement by Michigan voters of the construction of a second bridge linking Detroit and Windsor. Given the congestion at the Ambassador Bridge, the New International Trade Crossing will provide much needed relief for Canadian and American factories shipping production materials back and forth across the border.
Given the slow rate of economic growth and high levels of uncertainty in the United States, British Columbians should be concerned about the economic implications of President Barack Obamas recent re-election.
Despite the fact that B.C. exports have diversified with exports to the Pacific Rim now equal those to the U.S., the U.S. remains a critically important market for B.C. A stronger American economy will no doubt lead to a robust recovery of B.C. exports to the U.S., which have declined more than 35% since 2005.
In the debate over whether the partially state-owned energy company, Chinas CNOOC, should be given the go-ahead by Ottawa to take over Calgary-based Nexen, there is the danger that the discussion will be cast in an adversarial east-west context.