Free trade is in big trouble. Building an integrated global marketplace where companies and workers compete on merit instead of nationality was always a work in progress, and one that had started to slow in recent years. But the events of 2016—from Brexit to the election of Donald Trump—have brought this work to an abrupt stop. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead, NAFTA is up for renegotiation, and the EU is shrinking. The WTO is about to face its biggest test, as countries brace themselves for border taxes and trade wars. The debate is no longer about the next wave of trade liberalization, but whether the world will retreat into the economic nationalism of the past.
Canada doesn’t seem to be giving up yet. While we make the case for the status quo with Washington, we’re busy seeking new trade partners. Our agreement with Europe is coming into effect, we’re exploring a replacement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and we’re starting formal talks with China—a country many trade proponents hope can pick up the globalization baton. But the current shakeup is also an opportunity for Canada to pause, step back and think critically about our assumptions and next steps.
ThePanel is bringing together top thinkers to debate some of the big questions facing Canada’s trade agenda: Is the record of free trade in Canada really as rosy as we think? How can we make sure that the agreements we sign create better economic opportunities and stronger protections for our workers and the environment? In a world where countries are looking inward, how much of a priority should we put on free trade, and with whom?
FEATURED INDUSTRY EXPERTS
Senior Associate, Harper & Associate Consulting, Former Director of Policy to Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Senior Economist, Canadian Labour Congress
The National Arts Centre (Studio Theatre), 53 Elgin Street, Ottawa, ON
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