Originally published in Blakes Bulletin on International
Trade, November 2008
On November 19, 2008, in a ceremonial speech delivered to
Parliament by Canada's head of state, the recently re-elected
government officially set out its blueprint of the broad goals of
its mandate and how it intends to accomplish this. In this article,
we examine the international trade and investment initiatives that
the government intends to implement in its efforts to calm rough
Canadian economic waters.
In the speech, one concern trumped all others: the economy. This
represents a marked departure from previous speeches in a
post-September 11 environment, in which issues of national security
have played a much greater role. Indeed, even those elements of the
speech that were not directly driven by the current financial
crisis bear the indelible mark of the crisis, such as the
government initiatives on climate change, which tied environmental
progress to a healthy economy.
TRADE AND INVESTMENT
The speech highlights the determination of the government to
expand both trade and investment opportunities for Canada. The
specific commitments with respect to trade and investment made in
the speech include:
proceeding with legislation to modernize Canadian investment
working with the new administration in the United States in
addressing shared challenges during the current economic downturn
by seeking opportunities to enhance North American
pursuing new trade agreements in Asia and the Americas, as well
as with the European Union, to increase the ability of companies to
access investment opportunities both in Canada and abroad
proceeding with legislation to ratify the results of trade
negotiations that have been concluded with the European Free Trade
Association, Peru, Colombia and Jordan
continued investment by the government in expanding gateways on
the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and in vital border corridors such
as the Canada-United States Detroit River International
removing barriers to internal (within Canada) trade, investment
and labour mobility by 2010, fixing what the government calls the
"fragmented regulatory environment"
investments by the government in new world-class research
proceeding with legislation to modernize Canada's copyright
laws and ensure stronger protection for intellectual property
banning all bulk water transfers or exports from Canadian
implementing legislation to improve consumer protection (such
as tracking and inspection) arising from the importation of food,
drugs, toys, and other consumer products.
The government's message is clear: increase and expand
opportunities for Canadian companies abroad and at home, and
encourage foreign investments in Canada. The government proposes to
achieve this goal by way of an aggressive agenda to negotiate new
free trade agreements, deepening economic co-operation with the
United States and reducing those internal Canadian regulatory
barriers that multiply costs of doing business in Canada.
The commitment to expanding trade and investment permeated other
areas in the speech as well. Trade- and investment-related
initiatives that received prominent treatment in the speech
reducing regulatory barriers that impede extending an oil and
gas pipeline network into Canada's North
making the procurement process a top priority stream,
particularly with respect to military procurement
strengthening financial oversight in Canada by working with the
provinces to put in place a common securities regulator
providing support to the Canadian manufacturing " sector,
particularly the automotive and aerospace industries as well as the
fisheries, mining and forestry sector to enable them to market
products abroad and help businesses to innovate.
This most recent comprehensive policy speech by the government
bears the undeniable mark of the current economic crisis. The
previous focus on national security – a dominating
feature of speeches since September 11, 2001 – has given
way to an overwhelming focus on the economy. Trade and investment
stakeholders with a business and financial interest in Canada may
benefit from this shift, as the government seeks to eliminate
regulatory barriers and facilitate trade and investment
The speech is, by tradition, policy and idea-focused. While a
more detailed economic statement is forthcoming to provide
specifics on how the government will approach economic and fiscal
management, the speech itself provides a clear indication that, in
exercising its mandate, the government intends to open Canada to
Canadians and the world.
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