TPP Deal would reignite North Amierican integration

TPP trade deal would reignite North American co-operation: Mexican minister

“There are very few issues that would not benefit from a more North American perspective,” Jose Antonio Meade told The Globe and Mail in an interview.

“More and more we are coming to realize that there is benefit to trilateralizing the issues.”

But analysts warn that it will take more political will than U.S. President Barack Obama has displayed thus far to get the Three Amigos working together again.

Efforts to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation – an ambitious trade agreement that would involve 12 Pacific nations – foundered last month in Maui in part because Canada and Mexico rejected a deal that the United States and Japan had reached on automobiles and auto parts.

Canada and Mexico want a higher threshold of production within the trade zone before cars and car parts are exempt from tariffs than the United States and Japan are proposing.

And feathers were ruffled when Ottawa and Mexico City learned that the United States and Japan had negotiated the lower threshold without consulting them.

“I think it was safe to say it was a surprise,” Mr. Meade acknowledged.

To get the talks back on track, trade officials from Canada, the United States and Mexico met in Washington on Thursday in an effort to reach a compromise. In an e-mail, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development described the talks as “constructive,” but had no further comment.

The TPP, as it is known, is facing major headwinds, and time is running out to reach an agreement. The U.S. Congress must ratify whatever agreement is reached, the American presidential election could hijack congressional approval and attention in Canada is distracted by the federal election.

But Mr. Meade remained confident that an agreement will be reached, although he would not predict by when.

And he said he believes that agreement would revive a continental approach to tackling major issues affecting the three countries.

Such co-operation has been on the decline, with Canada and Mexico negotiating bilaterally with the United States during the Obama administration, especially on border issues.

The trilateral relationship is “stalled for lack of political ambition and leadership,” said Colin Robertson, an analyst in Canada-U.S. relations.

Mr. Obama has shown little interest throughout his presidency in taking a continental approach to issues, preferring to talk with Canada and with Mexico separately – to the extent he talks to them at all.

“There’s not that grand vision, which we’ve had under previous presidents and which I think you have to have,” Mr. Robertson observed.

Canada-Mexico relations are also strained as a result of the Stephen Harper government’s decision to impose visa requirements on Mexicans visiting Canada.

But a successfully concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership would not only strengthen ties among the 12 Pacific nations that are part of the talks, Mr. Meade predicted, it would also update the two-decade-old North American Free Trade Agreement involving Canada, Mexico and the United States.

And that, in turn, could lead to a continental approach to other pressing issues, especially energy security. “The more we integrate our energy markets the more security we will have, the better prices we will have, the more competitive we will be,” Mr. Meade predicted.

Similarly, it makes sense to pursue a continental approach to reducing carbon emissions, he added.

But others are skeptical. Len Edwards, a distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont., and a former deputy minister of foreign affairs, agreed that a successful conclusion to the TPP talks would rejuvenate NAFTA.

But grappling with challenges in energy, the environment, agriculture, mobility and the like “will require renewed energy, co-operation and commitment,” he added. And at the moment, all three are lacking.

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North American Regional Cooperation

Time to take North American regional co-operation seriously

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015

Are we overlooking the potential of North America? Looking across our oceans for new markets makes good sense. But as the still-to-be-implemented Canada-European Union deal and the still-to-be-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership illustrate, getting there is easier said than done.

Later this week, the North American Forum meets in Toronto, armed with a series of recent reports underlining the opportunities within North America. Their analysis and collective recommendations help set the table for the North American Leaders’ summit that Canada will host after our election this fall.

Before the dissolution of Parliament, Canada’s Senate and House Foreign Affairs committees released studies arguing that, while NAFTA worked, we now need a new regime to manage our growing economic integration.

North American supply chains, now continental in scope, serve a market of 465 million people. Innovation has given us extraordinary energy advantages. We need to focus on improving the arteries of transportation, especially at border choke points. A restructured North American Development Bank could finance new infrastructure. We must do a better job of linking training to required skills and then improving continental labour mobility.

National governments need to lead. They can create the trilateral integrative frameworks for action. There is plenty of creativity and useful experimentation on issues like climate change by states and provinces.

Both parliamentary reports argue for more attention to border barriers and regulatory convergence. The public favours trade liberalization, but governments and legislators need to demystify and better explain their trade agendas.

The Senate report recommends more Canadian diplomatic offices in the U.S., recognizing that trade and politics “is local.” We need regular meetings between the three countries’ parliamentarians to trouble-shoot problems. The House report wants our regulators to harmonize standards.

Building on the recent U.S. Council on Foreign Relations report that he co-authored, former general David Petraeus argues that North America is the “next great emerging market.” Gen. Petreaus’s Belfer Center report says the “synergistic” catalysts to lift the three economies are dynamism in energy, advanced manufacturing, and life sciences and information technology.

Our continental advantages, Gen. Petraeus says, include Canada’s banking system and resilient oil and gas sector. The U.S. continues to breed innovation and entrepreneurialism, with agile capital markets and small firms adept at applying new technologies. With its young and skilled workforce, Mexico is becoming a manufacturing hub.

Each of these reports point to the remarkable economic transformation taking place in Mexico. Mexico is becoming a majority middle class nation.

Mexico still faces challenges from the drug cartels and corruption. Resolution will take time and effort, starting with policing and judicial reform at the state level. But the reforms to labour, education and energy are real. Mexico’s growing middle class is already bigger than the entire Canadian population. By 2050, Mexico is projected to be amongst the globe’s top five economies. The Senate report argues Canada requires a comprehensive Mexico strategy that prioritizes educational exchanges.

A useful study by Laura Dawson looks at the Canada-Mexico relationship. Dr. Dawson, who now directs the Washington-based Wilson Center’s Canada program, contends that supply chain dynamics – notably autos and aviation – as well as investments in banking and mining, provide a solid foundation for closer Canada-Mexico relations.

In a recent major policy speech on North America, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau recognized that managing the U.S. relationship is a prime ministerial priority. He promised to resurrect a cabinet committee focusing on the U.S., expand our diplomatic footprint within the U.S. and put renewed emphasis on easing the cross-border flow of people and goods.

Mr. Trudeau also promised to lift the Mexican visa requirement imposed in 2009. A poor decision, badly executed and later compounded by gratuitous comments, it unnecessarily irritated our third-largest trading partner. It has cost Canada in potential commerce and investment.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair should speak on how they would manage continental integration and our relations with the United States and Mexico.

This fall’s North American Leaders’ summit must be more than just a photo opportunity. As the Senate report concluded: “While it is critical that Canada take steps to seize … opportunities wherever they exist, we must also remain actively engaged – commercially, politically and interpersonally – in our immediate neighbourhood.”

Within North America, we have an opportunity to develop a new model of working together – less bureaucratic and centralized than that of the European Union. It would respect national sovereignty, preserve each country’s monetary and fiscal independence, and recognize that the states and provinces are more likely to find pragmatic solutions to our issues and irritants.

Remember that old Tin Pan Alley tune: “I’m looking over a four-leaf clover that I overlooked before.” Well, it’s time to look anew at North America.


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Global Food Challenges

How Canada has a role in feeding the world

Malthus, the 18th century scholar-cleric, warned that population growth would outpace food production resulting in mass starvation. But Malthus and his apocalyptic apostles failed to account for human ingenuity, the market economy’s incentives, and government safety nets.

As a result, the UN Millennium Summit goal of halving those who suffer from hunger has been achieved. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), global malnourishment has dropped from 23.3 per cent (1990) to 12.9 per cent (2014).

In its recent The State of Food Insecurity the FAO reports that while 796 million people remain undernourished, it is 216 million less than in 1990. During that same period the global population grew from 5.2 to 7 billion. Out of 129 developing countries 72 have reached their Millennium Development hunger target.

This remarkable progress is a result of scientific ingenuity. The postwar Green Revolution significantly increased the production of grains: rice, wheat, pulse, lentils and, most of all, corn. Calories became much more available and at cheaper cost, making an appreciable reduction in hunger.

Innovation has not stopped. We now have meta-yielding, disease-resistant seeds. The application of technologies, like GPS in planting and harvesting, makes a difference. We make better use of water and fertilizers. Food processing and distribution are more efficient, allowing longer storage of fruits and vegetables without spoilage.

The global trading system helps. Getting goods quickly to destinations acts as a shock absorber in time of crisis. Innovation in refrigeration and containerization creates more choice at lower cost.

Still, one in eight goes to bed hungry each night. Hunger thrives in instability and current conflicts have created over 50 million displaced persons – the most since the Second World War.

For nations, especially in the Middle East and Africa, better domestic food production is also handicapped by low productivity and lack of access to markets and food processing. Technological improvements are less accessible because of proprietary restrictions, expense or because they don’t know how to use them.

Climate change is exacerbating the age-old complaints of pests and disease, flood and drought.

Farmers need help in learning the basics of soil rehabilitation through better irrigation and crop rotation. Of the 570 million worldwide farms, the FAO report says more than 90 per cent are managed and worked by an individual or a family. Most of these farms are less than 2 hectares yet they produce more than 80 per cent of the world’s food.

Then there is the problem of what we eat.

Fast food, rich in carbohydrates and sugars, is quick and cheap. Meals with vitamins and minerals take longer and cost more. Poor nutrition – causing obesity and hypertension leading to diabetes – especially afflicts minorities and First Nations. Canadians need to cut down on salt and sugar.

But there’s encouraging news: Canadians, where one in four is considered obese, and Americans, where one in three is considered obese, are starting to eat less and eat better. In 1998 Americans drank 40 gallons of full-calorie soda but in 2014 the figure had dropped to 30 gallons.

Education is key. We need to devote more attention to food literacy: food preparation and the nutritional value of what we are eat. What used to be called “home economics” in school has as much application for men as women and should be made mandatory. Programs like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move and a focus on school lunches are steps in the right direction. Canada’s Food Guide is still useful but it needs smarter distribution.

Canada was once the “breadbasket” to the world. With our growing production in pulse, pork and beef, we are poised, after we reform supply management in poultry and dairy production, to help feed the world.

Canada’s Lester B. Pearson was one of the architects of the FAO, the first permanent UN-specialized, functional organization. As he told its inaugural conference (1945) in Quebec City, the FAO is “helping nations to achieve freedom from want.”

Hunger is still a challenge requiring continuing multilateral efforts. National governments need to emphasize diet literacy and the value of exercise in schools to meet the challenges of malnourishment and obesity. Eating habits need to change: less carbs, more greens.

So far we’ve proved Malthusian prognostications wrong. With education, ingenuity and multilateral collaboration, there is reason for optimism.

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