If a true free trade deal were being made between two countries, it would take several hours to negotiate and be about two pages in length.
Drawing on 1700s Scottish economist Adam Smith’s economics of “comparative advantage,” it would eliminate all subsidies, tariffs, anti-trade programs and free up everyone to grow and produce what he does best, for himself, and unfettered export to the other country in the deal.
Full-out free trade, no matter what.
Strangely, those politicians who cite that free trade is required for prosperity, are terrified of this total free-trade prospect. They spend an equal amount of time assuring those who lobby them for protection, or government handouts for their business ventures, that they have their backs.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is a prime example of a so-called Conservative, supposedly in favour of free trade between free economies, while assuring others he will keep 300 per cent tariffs in place.
Perhaps it has to be this way, pretending they are free traders. But one suspects they feel this hypocrisy has to prevail in order to be elected and re-elected. Maxime Bernier can tell you how well his freer trade platform turned out in his leadership bid for the federal Conservative Party.
Whether having total free trade would create an ideal economy, or not, — letting the losers lose and the winners win — we will never know. But New Zealand and Australia, through geography and circumstances, have a fairly good idea, coming closer than any country to achieving this ideal with overall positive results.
New Zealand arrived here after it once hit-the-wall financially and had to reboot an economy. Australia, because of its geographic isolation, needed to sweeten the pot for others to do business.
In Canada, as in most countries, folks feel such a scenario is downright dangerous and insist their governments tap dance on free trade, depending on the product, and who would benefit or would be hurt, if it were freely traded or protected behind tariffs.
What went on before at the negotiating tables, with hordes of lobbyists descending on politicians and these negotiators, sometimes took years to get craven results. U.S. President Donald Trump has brought it all out on Twitter and into the spotlight. It sure isn’t pretty but at least now we can watch. If you don’t want to join those countries with tariffs against them on steel and aluminum, what are you giving me? The most effective, brutal negotiating I’ve ever seen.
I was at a public speech a couple of months ago where Canada’s top trade negotiator for NAFTA complained that the Trump administration was not following normal rules of behaviour at these trade talks. The U.S. was not giving the issues adequate study and analysis beforehand.
As much as I personally admire our negotiator, in all fairness, there was no economic analysis on our part to show that free trade in the long term was far more beneficial. His orders were to protect certain industries and their products at the free trade talks he conducted over the years.
It was the lobbyists who got to him, and the politicians, with the final decision to provide protection for certain segments of the economy.
But this new brazen attitude has jump-started folks to eliminate some stupidity at the table.
When the TPP was re-negotiated, the 11 countries agreed on day one they would not touch a single amount of a single product that had been negotiated when the Americans had been in play.
In a matter of months it was all done, although Justin had some delaying theatrics, drawing it out several months longer than the other countries wanted.
Remember NAFTA re-negotiations only started last fall. When I was standing and talking for about half an hour with the federal Minister of Agriculture in a Prescott County dairy barn on March 19, Lawrence MacAulay revealed that he was 100 per cent focused on getting a vital, re-negotiated NAFTA deal made for agriculture.
A dramatic Liberal government attitude shift from the former posturing, “it will be our way, or no deal.”
Ian Cumming is a former Glengarry County dairy farmer who farms with his son in northern New York state.