Counting the Cost

What’s driving Canada’s progressive trade agenda?

We examine Canada’s relation with the US and its desire to explore new partnerships in the Middle East and Asia.

Canada and the United States share the world’s longest international border.

Trade is central to the two countries’ relationship as jobs depend on the easy flow of goods and services. With over 400,000 people flowing across the border on a daily basis, the two-way trade is worth $2.4bn daily.

However, trade rules between two of the world’s largest trading partners are about to change as the US seeks to “tweak” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the decades-old free trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico which aims to cut tariffs and ease commerce.

Francios-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s minister of international trade, discusses his country’s relationship with its neighbours and integration with the rest of the world.

The value of Canada’s trade worldwide is equivalent to 65 percent of its GDP, but the US buys three-quarters of Canada’s exports – making it Canada’s biggest export market.

“Canada’s the largest energy supplier to the US – whether it is oil, gas, or electricity – so we will remain good strategic partners and I think there is a recognition in the US about that,” said Champagne.

“We like to be good energy partners because energy security is key to North America. Canada has huge natural resources so we’re pleased to continue that relationship with the United States.”

Meanwhile, Canada is pursuing a progressive global trade agenda. It is hoping to boost trade with the European Union by up to 20 percent under the Canada-Europe trade pact known as CETA – although it has yet to be fully ratified.

“This is the most progressive trade agreement negotiated by either Canada or the EU.

“It includes provisions about the environment, labour standards, and the right of states to legislate in the interest of health and safety. So, this progressive trade agreement is the gold standard in the world.”

Additionally, Champagne’s aim is to establish new partnerships with fast-growing markets in Asia such as China, India, Japan as well as the Middle East.

He said feasibility studies are under way to assess the possibility of preferential trade agreements because “we owe it to Canadian consumers and workers to develop access to these markets”.

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

Kenya oil: Kenyans living in areas suffering from drought and food shortages are hoping to benefit from the discovery of oil. Catherine Soi reports from Turkana County.

Snap IPO: We’ve heard about loss-making technology start-ups making big amounts of cash in their stock market debuts before. But when Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, it stood out for another reason. It was the first company to ever issue shares without voting rights in an initial public offering, which means its owners don’t have to answer to shareholders. Gabriel Elizondo reports from New York.

Made in China: Average factory wages in China have now leapfrogged those in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. According to market research firm Euromonitor, average wages rose to $3.60 an hour last year. But will fast-rising wage levels mean China could also start to lose jobs to other developing countries willing to undercut it?

China-North Korea tensions: Rising tensions between China and neighbouring North Korea could have economic implications, following Pyongyang’s most recent missile test. Adrian Brown reports from the Chinese border city of Dandong.

Returnships: “Returnship” is a new buzz word in recruitment. It’s a chance offered to adults who have taken time away from their careers and want to return to the workforce. More than 160 companies around the world have started “returnship programmes” but they are not without criticism.

Space tourism: Could commercial space tourism become a reality by next year? SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is planning on flying two space tourists to the moon and back by the end of next year. Victoria Gatenby reports.