"It’s just embarrassing" — Canada needs to fix its interprovincial trade problems

The topic of trade was heavily discussed among attendees at this year’s CropSphere conference. This comes as no surprise to most, as Canadian farmers continue to deal with trade uncertainty on the global stage.

One of the keynote speakers, Globe and Mail columnist Andrew Coyne, touched on how politics relate to both trade overall and agricultural exports.

“The cause of free trade, if you will, is in some retreat around the world,” he says. “Largely for political reasons, [there’s] populist uprisings and the rest of the world is [somewhat] turning inwards, but the good news is that Canada has not really gone down that road. So while we had an election that was in some ways depressing because there wasn’t a lot of debates on some pretty important issues, there was a lot of kind of small-ball politics,” Coyne says.

One aspect where Coyne says Canada has an advantage is that we’ve got bipartisan consensus that we are an open country, that we’re open to trade, and that we want to trade with the world. That’s reflected in some of the very aggressive trade policies that both the Conservative and Liberal governments have been pursuing, he says.

Coyne points to the various trade agreements Canada is a part of, along with giving kudos to the government for holding on to the North American Free Trade Agreement (now the USMCA) and getting it signed between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

What Coyne sees as a challenge, though? Interprovincial trade.

Even though Canada — on the global stage — is setting a good example for diversified trade, he says we lack when it comes to trade between the provinces and territories.

“That’s not only costly to us as an economy in terms of the barriers of trade between the provinces but also — it’s just embarrassing. It doesn’t look like a functioning country,” he says.

On the bright side, he sees progress already starting to take shape in the new decade with premiers speaking to one another.

Listen to the full interview between RealAgriculture’s Jessika Guse and Globe and Mail columnist Andrew Coyne at CropSphere 2020 below:

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