This week Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz took to the Canadian press to air some of his thoughts on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Despite his impressive academic credentials, Stiglitz did little more than repeat often used threats and warnings we have heard from protesters of such international trade deals in the past, which basically amount to the sky is falling and Canadians will no longer be in control of their own agenda on issues such as climate change, First Nations relations, minimum wage and other aspects of labour law.
We might even have to sell our first borns to multi-national corporations if these levels of hysteria over such agreements can be believed.
Stiglitz said he told his “friend” International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, that Canada should reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it’s a “badly flawed trade deal.”
Stiglitz, of course, glosses over another side to this story. This TPP deal was only reluctantly negotiated by the former Conservative government in the first place. It had grave concerns over the potential damage to Canada’s supply management sectors. The Conservatives came late to the negotiating table and were barely able to get in under the wire to be a part of it.
So is the trade deal flawed? Of course it is, but that doesn’t change the fact Canada either had to jump in on it or risk losing our preferred trading status in some of our biggest export markets such as Japan, Mexico, Australia and the United States, countries which have been pushing strongly for this deal. What the TPP does is create an exclusive trade zone among the dozen signing members that will likely supersede agreements like NAFTA between Canada, the United States and Mexico.
If Canada did not sign on we would be left standing outside the door as Mexico and the United States sought to import more products from elsewhere first. We would likely be completely shut out of Japan’s lucrative beef market as New Zealand and Australia took our place there too.
So despite what Stiglitz seems to be implying, it’s not so simple for Canada to drop this agreement. Such an action could well have dire consequences for Canadian exporters. Let’s hope Canada’s international trade minister listens to other voices that represent the national interest, rather than her good old buddy Joseph Stiglitz, an American professor and economist, who has pie-in-the-sky ideals but absolutely no skin in our game.