Peacekeepers seized in Syria

CTV News Channel: Militants seek attention, money

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson says the peacekeepers and they may be released soon due to international efforts to free them.

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Free Trade in Canada

Why free trade is the unfinished business of Confederation

The Globe and Mail Friday, Aug. 22 2014

When our 13 provincial and territorial leaders meet next week in Charlottetown for their 55th annual conclave, they will discuss, yet again, how to create free trade within Canada.

It is the unfinished business of our Confederation.

The intention in the Constitution is clear: “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.”

But it didn’t work out that way. During our first half century a combination of interests – local and provincial, supported by the courts – resulted in a narrow definition of the federal commerce power. This yin yang over constitutional powers continues, as demonstrated in the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision to curb a national securities exchange.

Nearly 40 per cent of Canadian trade occurs within our borders. Economists estimate provincial protectionism costs us billions annually.

With Canada’s growth increasingly trade-driven, the premiers have become major advocates in the making of new deals and marketing our goods and services.

Then-premier of Quebec Jean Charest drove the campaign in 2007 to launch free-trade negotiations with the European Union. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall led the premiers to a Washington parley with U.S. governors in 2010 that sealed the procurement reciprocity agreement. Premiers sustained trade relations with China when the “new” Harper government had no time for the Middle Kingdom.

An Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) was cobbled together 20 years ago by the federal and provincial governments but it lacks scope and teeth. As Industry Minister James Moore tells audiences: “The sad reality is that currently foreigners have greater trade benefits in Canada than our fellow Canadians do.”

Mr. Moore is not the first to observe that it is easier to find for sale across Canada a much wider variety of foreign products, notably beer, wine and cheese, than products made-in-Canada.

They are not the only examples of discriminatory differences. Truckers face different rules for weights, dimensions, tires, height and clearance. There are 39 different bodies regulating accounting standards. And good luck if you are an apprentice seeking to work in another province.

The business community, Western premiers and now the federal government are offering plans to achieve freer internal trade.

The Western premiers want to expand the vision of their New West Partnership (NWP) to the rest of Canada. Created in 2010, the New West Partnership opens the doors to trade, investment and labour mobility between British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. It also opens up procurement and creates a single business registry.

In a recent letter to their fellow premiers, advancing their principles for internal trade, NWP premiers’ Brad Wall, Christy Clark and Dave Hancock warned that the alternative is “anti-free trade behaviour which puts us on a slippery slope to protectionism.”

Business leadership has long argued for reform. This month they released a strategy document called A New Vision for Interprovincial Trade in Canada. It calls for a deal “as ambitious and comprehensive” as any with our foreign partners.

This week, Mr. Moore announced a policy paper, “One Canada, One National Economy,” designed to modernize internal trade in Canada, effectively scrapping the AIT, with regulators required to “align or explain.”

Out of these various proposals emerge common themes. The premiers should act on them.

First, all goods and services should be included except that which is negotiated specifically out of the deal. This is the approach used in the Canada-EU agreement and other international trade agreements.

Second, labour mobility. Mutual accreditation of trades – plumbers and electricians, nurses and teachers, including apprentices – is critical to success.

Third, open procurement that would remove the barriers to inter-provincial purchasing.

Fourth, mutual recognition, preferably harmonization, of regulation whereby any good or service made or delivered to one jurisdiction would be admitted into every other province or territory.

Fifth, strong governance, including an enforcement mechanism “with the teeth to make sure that we all play by the rules.”

We should emulate the Obama administration’s approach to regulatory reform and oblige Canada’s regulators to agree on common standards with an ambitious “lookback” to eliminate existing differences.

A hundred and fifty years ago an earlier generation of provincial leaders met in Charlottetown to see if “the sisterhood of the Provinces will form themselves into a great nation.”

Our current premiers need to finish the job and achieve free trade within Canada. They should set the deadline for July 1, 2017, the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

We’ve created freer trade within and between continents. Surely we can open trade within Canada.

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Sanctions cut two ways

TV News Channel: Sanctions cut two ways

Colin Robertson of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute talks about the impact of reciprocal sanctions from Russia.
Updated Thursday, August 7, 2014 5:28PM EDT

Canadian pork producers are worried because Russia is banning food imports from Canada, the U.S. and other countries for a year.

The move is in response to sanctions imposed on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.

Russia has the importation banned meat, fish, milk and milk products, fruit and vegetables.

According to Canada Pork International, which represents Canadian pork exporters, Russia was the third largest importer of Canadian pork behind the United States and Japan in 2012.

Last year, Canada exported about $500 million in pork to Russia, 65 per cent of which came from Quebec, said Gaelle Leruste, comminucations advisor for the Quebec Pork Producers Federation.

“The impact will be immediate on processors but will also have an impact on our producers because we’re working together,” Leruste said.

Industry Minister James Moore said the retaliatory sanctions were serious, but since Canada now has free trade agreements with 43 countries, he expected farmers would be able to find new markets.

He also said that Canada would not be deterred from imposing more sanctions on Russia if that country does not cease hostilities in Ukraine.

“It’s very important that Canada and all of our allies and all those who have rhetorically opposed the belligerent and irresponsible behaviour of Mr. Putin stand firm, that we not be intimidated,” said Moore.

Still, Russia represents 10 per cent of the Canadian market for pork products, and farmers want the embargo lifted quickly.

But according to Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who helped implement the North American Free Trade Agreement, that won’t be so simple.

“The problem here is that over half the world doesn’t have sanctions against Russia. The Chinese don’t the Brazilians don’t the South Africans don’t so there are alternate places where Russia can find goods,” he explained.

In a news release, Quebec-based meat packing and food processing company Olymel said it will “every effort to find other outlets for products that were destined for the Russian market in order to reduce the impact of this decision.”

Leruste said with pork prices relatively high and expected to stay that high through to next year, farmers believe they should be able to cope with the sanctions.

So far, there are no plans to compensate farmers for any potential loss in markets, Moore said.

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Sanctions and Mr. Putin

How Harper can get at Putin, and other tips on sanctions

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Aug. 05 2014

Sanctions started with the travel and banking blacklist of Vladimir Putin’s closest cronies – the new nomenklatura. After the annexation of Crimea, bans were put on arms sales and the export of energy-related technology.

Last week, Western capital markets closed to Russian state banks. Western governments also expanded the list of Russian banking, arms and energy companies banned from doing business in the West.

Will these new sanctions work?

In the short term probably not as Russians are behind their President. Recent Russian polls put Mr. Putin’s popularity at over 80 per cent with strong confidence in the direction of the country, their military and government.

At the World Trade Organization, the Russians say the sanctions could trigger a fight that would “ultimately undermine the credibility of the multilateral trading system.” It will test the national security override provision in the WTO.

Outside of the G7 and the European Union, only a few nations are applying serious sanctions to Russia. There are still loopholes for Russia to avoid or evade them.

Sanctions are only as strong as the weakest link.

The Western arms ban only applies to transactions after the Crimean invasion. France intends to sell two warships – Sevastopol (as in occupied Crimea) and Vladivostok – to Russia. As the New York Times editorialized, “financial sacrifice is one thing; arming Russia is another.”

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to cock a snook at Mr. Putin, do a favour to French President François Hollande. Pre-emptively purchase the ships for the Royal Canadian Navy. Rename them Frontenac and Champlain, after our great French warrior-governor explorers. Sign the Canada-Europe trade agreement on their deck.

For sanctions to bite they need to be progressively ratcheted up. The rest of the world needs to buy in. Sanctions work better when targeted, calibrated and comprehensively applied.

As with armed force, threat of sanctions has deterrent value. As with force, their application record is mixed.

The challenge, pointed out Jimmy Carter in his Nobel lecture, is avoiding the “injustice” of sanctions, aimed at penalizing abusive leaders, that “inflict punishment on those who are already suffering from the abuse.”

Sanctioned nations – Rhodesia after its Unilateral Declaration of Independence, South Africa over apartheid, Cuba since Fidel Castro, China after Tiananmen Square, Iraq after the first Gulf War and currently North Korea and Iran – have proven resilient. They adapt and find alternate sources through the black market or other rogue regimes.

In Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, Peterson Institute scholars’ Gary Hufbauer and Jeff Schott look at the effect of sanctions since the First World War.

Sanctions were assessed “at least partially successful” in one-third of the 204 cases examined.

Used to punish and deter, as well as to assuage domestic constituencies, they were more effective when applied between friendly nations, likely because they shared norms of behaviour.

Financial sanctions are becoming increasingly effective through better tracking. Named companies and individuals become “radioactive,” curbing their ability to travel and profit.

In their look at three decades of sanctions on Iran, the Iran Project concluded their impact on the kitchen table helped persuade Iran to return to the nuclear bargaining table. The challenge is knowing when to convert a “purely confrontational strategy” to one combining pressure and positive signals.

Sanctions are having an effect on Russia. Russia’s central bank raised its interest rate to 8 per cent last week noting the “negative impact” of “external political uncertainty.” Russian annual growth was downgraded by the IMF to 0.2 per cent.

Western leaders need to pressure the new beneficiaries of the liberal international order, especially those in the G20, to join in the application of meaningful sanctions. With global trade and investment rights come community responsibilities.

Within the G7, set a timetable for additional sanctions if President Putin does not comply.

For Mr. Putin to get away with invasion, annexation and the murder of innocents is wrong. Hold him to account.

Sanctions are imperfect but a better tool than using force. “Peace” Ronald Reagan observed, “is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Hitting the bad guys in their passports and pocketbooks helps encourage compliance.

Sanctions oblige patience, fortitude and disciplined unity – difficult virtues for democracies. But at stake is the integrity of our liberal international order.

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