Canada is entering a difficult trade era where the ease of having the U.S. market largely to itself is coming to an end.
So, too, is the relatively less-complicated task of entering markets through bilateral agreements. At the same time, our trade and logistics infrastructure – which is critical to competitiveness in North America and Asia – is in clear need of more investment in capacity, an undertaking that will require public support.
The West faces challenges, and will make choices, in the next few years that will define our ability to prosper through trade for generations to come:
> There is rising demand to move people and products to and from Canada as the global middle class grows. How do we focus the attention of governments and gain public support for smarter investments in trade-related infrastructure?
> The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement presents opportunities, but only if we rethink our trade promotion and market-entry strategies. Unlike the bilateral agreements to which Canadian exporters have grown accustomed, opportunities under the TPP will require companies to outperform 10 new competitors to gain a share of each TPP market. New agreements also open trade in services for the first time. How do we retool our trade and export policies and institutions to respond to the new reality of multiple, equal competitors in the U.S. and Pacific markets? How do we prepare business and the public for these new trade realities? What do we do to help them respond?
> Canadian exporters will also see nine new competitors for a share of the U.S. and Mexico markets. The TPP will grant these competitors better-than-NAFTA access to the U.S. and Mexico markets in some sectors. How do we maintain influence and advantage in the U.S., in the face of such competition? What interests in the U.S. market are most vulnerable and how should we respond?
These challenges will require better policy and better informed public discussions. The public must also come to understand the country’s standard of living is intimately tied to international trade that involves moving products and people to markets and attracting investment.
These are the challenges the Centre for Trade and Investment Policy will confront in 2016.
Strategic Trade Infrastructure
The effectiveness of our trade and logistics infrastructure lies fully within our control. A series of roundtables with government, shippers and transporters in 2015 identified a series of barriers to trade and potential responses. Our work identified three approaches:
> bringing return-on-investment analysis and information from the private sector to guide and discipline national strategic spending
> exploring how to garner public support to build trade infrastructure, which includes aligning local and competitiveness needs
This year, we will take the next steps to build solutions for our trade infrastructure.
Priority 1: A paper will detail the elements of a national infrastructure strategy. Learnings from 2015 roundtables will be presented to federal government officials in Ottawa.
Priority 2: A study will examine how to bring private sector return-on-investment analysis to government decision making. Or, alternately, a paper will determine how to create a public-private body to guide national trade infrastructure planning and spending.
Priority 3: A meeting of the Western Trade & Investment Policy Council will explore ideas to increase public support for building trade infrastructure.
Trade: TPP and other agreements
With 11 countries, more than 5,000 pages and 113 annexes, the TPP is the most complex trade agreement that Canada has signed. While much work has been done on the relatively easy-to-grasp changes in tariffs and market access, the deeper and wider impact of the agreement will be on areas that have not received much attention, such as investment, movement of people, and trade in services. Each of these is vital for future diversification of the western economy.
The Centre will focus on solutions to increase our international competitiveness in TPP markets.
Priority 1: A policy paper will quantify the importance of the TPP agreement for western Canada, and explore potential impacts, benefits and policy responses to seize opportunities and mitigate risks.
Priority 2: An economic modelling exercise will use the Global Trade Analysis Project model to identify TPP impacts on western Canada, using provincial analyses to understand impacts on the provinces through the Pacific Gateway lens.
Priority 3: Two series of TPP seminars will present the modelling exercise and inform western businesses of unique opportunities around the Pacific and challenges in North America. Seminars for business will focus on information for goods and services, using a Team Canada approach to convene relevant trade support agencies. They will also present information on potential new supply and production chain partners.
North America Trading Bloc
North America remains Canada’s largest and most important trading partner. This year will carry on the work in 2015, when the Centre convened a discussion on the Future of North America with retired U.S. General David Petraeus and former World Bank president Robert Zoellick.
Priority 1: This year, the Centre will continue to work to provide strong western Canadian input for the North American Competitiveness Initiative and Scorecard for presentation to the U.S. Administration and Congress.
Priority 2: North America is the only trade bloc that does not have a dedicated, independent infrastructure bank and information clearing house. There is increasing recognition in the three countries of North America of the need for greater and smarter investments in cross-border infrastructure to support integrated supply and production chains. The centre will analyze the feasibility and mechanics of migrating the U.S.-Mexico North American Development Bank into a true North American Infrastructure Bank, with a mandate to focus on border infrastructure and renewable energy financing.
Subject to funding, a second phase of research will develop a roadmap for the bank’s transformation, including a mandate and governance structure.