I don’t know about you, but I am certainly relieved that 2017 is just around the corner.
I think it’s safe to say that 2016 was a terrible year. We saw Brexit, the rise of the alt-right movement (which is a pretty name for white supremacists) around the world and, of course, we saw Donald Trump getting elected.
Locally we all realized that Burns Lake’s main economic driver – forestry – will face tough challenges ahead and we saw the hub model of service delivery for the family programs being dismantled in Burns Lake.
A few months after we found out that the annual allowable cut of our community forests would be greatly reduced in 2020, we heard that the U.S. lumber industry had petitioned its government to launch trade litigation against Canada. What this means is that the negative impact we feared our local mills would suffer come much earlier than we all expected.
Since the U.S. remains B.C.’s largest lumber customer, with anti-trade crusader Donald Trump now elected, the U.S. market is no longer a safe bet.
But it’s not all doom and gloom (or at least I hope not). According to minister of international trade Chrystia Freeland, this wave of protectionism could present an opportunity for Canada. In fact, she said this could be the best time to attract foreign investment.
“We are the country today that is most clearly bucking the trend,” Freeland told members of the Toronto Region Board of Trade a few weeks ago. “We believe that now is a tremendous moment to go out and pitch Canada as the best place in the world for foreign investment.”
Last October, prime minister Justin Trudeau signed the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement (CETA) – a progressive free trade agreement which covers virtually all sectors and aspects of Canada-European Union trade in order to eliminate or reduce barriers. Once CETA is fully implemented, the European Union will have eliminated tariffs on 99 per cent of its tariff lines.
Freeland has referred to CETA “as a way for Canada and Europe to push back against the anti-globalization sentiment and to show that a progressive trade agreement can be done.”
The federal government says CETA is by far Canada’s most ambitious trade initiative – deeper in ambition and broader in scope than the historic North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As Trump has repeatedly stated that if elected he would renegotiate NAFTA, it’s a relief to know that Canada is exploring other markets.
Meanwhile B.C. government and forest industry have been marketing B.C. wood products in Asia. Forests minister Steve Thomson led a trade mission to Japan and China in late November which included Hampton Affiliates CEO Steve Zika.
What I expected in 2017 is that Canada will rise above this wave of protectionism and white supremacists to become a global leader, as it’s already been happening. Maybe this terrifying scenario presents an opportunity for Canada after all.