Slow economic growth bad for Canada’s foreign policy goals: experts

OTTAWA — Canada’s slow economic growth and poor competitiveness are undercutting its global interests, experts say, as the post-“sunny ways” version of the Trudeau government’s foreign policy emerges Wednesday with the announcement of a new cabinet.

The key moving parts include a replacement for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who might be given a new domestic portfolio — perhaps deputy prime minister — and the fact that International Trade Minister Jim Carr is fighting a form of blood cancer that makes him an unlikely candidate for a heavy travel schedule.

While managing Canada relations with the United States and China remain the paramount priorities, Canada’s low-growth economy is eroding its broader standing on the world stage, said Trevin Stratton, the chief economist of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Canada’s international ranking in a series of global surveys has continued to decline in recent months, including during the federal election campaign, he said.

That includes a drop in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the productivity of G20 countries that saw Canada drop two positions to 14th place among 20 large advanced economies.

Stratton said it is also significant that Canada has also fallen to 23rd place among countries in the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” ranking and fell in another index that ranks the soft power of 30 leading countries.

“It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to our place in the world and our reputation in the world this also has to do with our economy and also has to do with our competitiveness because if our economy is healthy then it communicates the opportunities that are available here,” said Stratton.

“The idea that soft power and competitiveness aren’t linked, I don’t believe in that.”

In a speech Tuesday, the senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada offered a grim prediction on the global economic situation. Carolyn Wilkins said the global picture has worsened, which has increased the risks that could spill over into Canada.

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak, a Toronto-based international trade lawyer, said the government needs to give Global Affairs Canada more money to help small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada expand their reach into foreign countries. She said they lack important information on how to navigate export controls and economic sanctions.

“It absolutely would help our competitiveness,” she said.

“There’s so many things Canadian companies won’t sell overseas where Americans can get this guidance and beat us to the opportunities because no one wants to be offside Canadian law. So, there’s a chill effect on Canadians exporting some of our high-tech goods just due to the total lack of guidance as to what’s expected and how the legislation is to be interpreted.”

Carr’s successor will have to continue his efforts to find new export markets for Canadian goods. Those have been to make up for China’s decision to block some agricultural products because of the political dispute that erupted over the RCMP’s arrest almost one year ago of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant to face fraud changes.

China has imprisoned two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, on allegations of spying in what is widely viewed as retaliation. China recently lifted a months-long ban on Canadian pork and beef but it is still blocking canola imports.

Sarah Goldfeder, an Ottawa-based consultant who formerly advised two U.S. ambassadors, said Canada’s relations with China will take years to repair and China will largely dictate the pace, as it did when it allowed Canadian beef and pork back into the country. In the meantime, she said, Canada should turn its attention to increasing exports to other Asian countries, such as South Korea and Japan.

There is also no need for strong political oversight to oversee the ratification of the new North American trade deal, she added, because its fate is now firmly in the hands of legislators in both countries.

“They need to work hard on stuff that is not China or the U.S.,” said Goldfeder.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2019.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal study details workers hit hardest by tax, benefit system for extra earnings

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Finance Department officials calculated that workers… Continue reading

Cenovus. (The Canadian Press)
Cenovus to buy Husky Energy in deal valued at $23.6B, company will remain in Alberta

CALGARY — Cenovus Energy Inc. is buying Husky Energy Inc. in an… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:49… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats turn minority into majority in British Columbia election

The New Democrats won a majority government in the British Columbia election… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

CALGARY — An inquiry into who is funding environmental opposition to the… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially facing higher taxes as the possibility of a contested U.S. presidential election appears to be fading, say investment experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky
Markets concerns about contested U.S. election fading with Biden lead in polls

TORONTO — Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially… Continue reading

(File photo)
Ontario records more than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 mew daily cases of COVID-19 for… Continue reading

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope names 13 new cardinals, includes US Archbishop Gregory

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including… Continue reading

Dave Mercer, President of Unifor Local 2121, overlooks Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Terra Nova floating production vessel that is anchored there on Friday, October 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around… Continue reading

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada's top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Canada’s top physician painted a bleak picture Saturday of the toll the… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is naming his shadow cabinet, including his predecessor Andrew Scheer as the party's infrastructure critic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were “late and confused” on COVID response

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Alberta has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Most Read