Monday, August 24, 2009

At Least They Got Trade Right

The Ottawa Citizen has two articles that tell us that, despite all of their problems, at least the Conservative government still gets trade issues right.

First, we learn that they are working with the U.S. to fight the ridiculous "Buy American" stipulation in the U.S. stimulus bill:
OTTAWA — Trade Minister Stockwell Day hopes to begin negotiations "at the earliest possible date" to secure access by Canadian firms to government contracts in the U.S. by trading a guarantee that U.S. firms will have access to provincial and municipal contracts in Canada.
This is good for everyone. If we are truly in the grips of a world wide depression, it's nice to know that there are people on both sides of the 49th working to facilitate wealth development. It's too bad that there are still some politicians who think economy-tanking protectionism will actually help their citizens.

Also from The Citizen, we learn that Stephen Harper has no intention of forcing himself into the the sale of Nortel. The article reads:

PANAMA CITY, Panama — Prime Minister Stephen Harper steered clear of the debate into Nortel's auction Tuesday, saying his government has no plans to "increase protectionism" in foreign investment while it touts the virtues of open trade on the world stage.

Harper said his government will "respect" the review process under the Investment Canada Act, which requires that foreign takeovers represent a "net benefit" to Canada.

May I ask, why is this news? Why would the government have any role to play in the sale of Nortel? I don't really care if they employed a lot of people; I don't really care if they were once - a really long time ago - a source of pride for Canada as the flagship for Silicon Valley North. They are a failed company that has been hemorrhaging cash and employees for quite some time now. A failed private entity needs to be sold (even if only for parts); that doesn't strike me as a public matter.

Of course, Canada has the Investment Canada Act. The perfect economic tool with which to bolster xenophobic paranoia. The introductory sentence on the Investment Canada Act web site reads:
Non-Canadians who acquire control of an existing Canadian business or who wish to establish a new unrelated Canadian business are subject to this Act, and they must submit either a Notification or an Application for Review.
I know, we, as Canadians, have some sort of complex about other people coming here spurring along the creation of wealth. It's really too bad. If only we learned the elemental economic lesson that wealth is the flow of goods and services, not the desperate clutching of loonies so that those who do not know the secret Canadian handshake can never, ever, ever get their grubby little alien paws on our sparkling coins.

We complain when other countries are more competitive than us in economic policy, drawing away investment and businesses, but then when someone wants to come here and spend some money, we treat them like the first rat entering Europe with the plague.

"Do they represent a 'net-benefit' to Canada?" we are told to ask. We would do well to remember that freedom, whether it be speech, religion... or trade, is a net benefit to Canada.

If the Investment Canada Act were judged by its own metric, it would fail.

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