In the midst of this new day of free trade between nations, it is precisely the right time to take a close look at our own back yard, and frankly, it needs some work -- particularly given the renewed discussion back home in Canada regarding the difficulty of doing business from one Canadian province to another.
Policies that restrict competition ultimately act to the detriment of Canadian firms and their workers. Free trade agreements like CETA open new markets for Canadian companies, but also force them to compete against foreign entities at home. It is that competition that spurs innovation and productivity.
So while Europe is undoubtedly a good trade partner, the question is: have the Conservatives negotiated a good deal for Canada? The answer is we can't say until we see the actual deal. Just as most Canadians wouldn't sign a major contract without reading and understanding it first, New Democrats won't support or oppose a trade agreement that we haven't seen.
According to our poll, 54 per cent of Canadians said they oppose giving special protections to EU firms, "similar to the protections American investors in Canada have as part of free trade with the U.S. [that] let them sue Canadian governments if they feel a government policy, including an environmental policy, unfairly affects their investment or profits in Canada."
When concluded, the Canada-Japan EPA would create a year-on-year multi-billion-dollar gain for the Canadian economy. A joint study by Canada and Japan has estimated the annual boost to Canada's gross domestic product from an EPA would be between $3.9 billion and $9.3 billion, while the gains for Japan's economy are estimated to be between $4.5 billion and $5.1 billion.
Focusing only on the cost increases associated with stronger (but still lagging) intellectual property protection for pharmaceutical innovators is simplistic and wrong. It is the balance of these costs and benefits that are the ultimate determinant of whether or not Canadians are better off, not just the post-2023 increase in drug costs to provincial governments, patients, and insurers.
Under CETA Canada will lengthen the time drugs remain under patent, which is expected to drive up already high Canadian pharmaceutical drug costs by more than $850 million a year. Instead of extending Canadian patent laws to more closely reflect Europe's rules, why not harmonize daycare programs to reflect the best of the trading area?
It is Canada's challenge to ensure this country is attractive to those who are making the decisions on where to invest their dollars for the discovery and development of innovative new treatments. So while critics try to dismiss stronger IP as nothing more than a technique to pad the bottom line of a faceless corporation, for millions of Canadians it could be a matter of life and breath.
What we know about the proposed free trade deal with Europe announced "in-principle" just over a week ago comes to us through leaks and press releases from those generally in favour of the deal. And, already there's reason for concern. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will no doubt contain some good and bad things for Canadians worried about the security of their jobs or the opportunities for them or their children to find meaningful employment. Any trade deal would. What we don't know, and can't know until we see the entire text of the deal, is how the two balance.