A recently released research paper from the United Steelworkers (USW), The Case for Canada’s Steel Industry, raises a couple of concerns that need to be part of any decision around supporting the steel industry in Canada.
Successive Canadian governments have claimed that trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership were necessary to build Canada’s economy. Long-standing concerns about the impact on labour standards, environmental regulations and the ability of federal and provincial governments to engage in economic development have been dismissed.
Recently, however, a new concern has emerged.
One of the arguments for a modern industrial strategy is that it would make it easier to ensure the long-term needs of the whole economy come before short-term considerations. The trade deal that the federal government just signed with South Korea is a good example of why we need a modern industrial strategy.
The federal government's decision to end the Canadian Wheat Board's (CWB) monopoly on selling Canadian wheat is being blamed for delays in shipping grain to market.
A Saskatoon Star Phoenix editorial pointed out that:
“In the past, wheat farmers could depend on the Canadian Wheat Board to battle for them when it came to putting pressure on the rail companies to get the grain to market. When the board had a monopoly on selling grain overseas, it also held considerable market influence.”
The debate on trade agreements is not about whether there should be more or less international trade according to a recent Broadbent Institute blog post. Instead, what we are debating is what type of industrial policy we will pursue and whether one of the goals will be good, well-paying jobs.
September trade figures confirm that Canada is increasingly dependent on oil and gas. While the trade deficit was down, it was only because of a 22.9% increase in oil and gas exports in the last year. Without that, Canada's trade deficit would have increased.
A recent Huffington Post article pointed out that the recent increase is part of a long term trend.
A corporate lawyer specializing in international trade and affiliated with the C.D. Howe Institute questioning the value of the trade deals Canada has been signing with other countries seems unlikely. But it's happened.