Ottawa's most important policy response to lagging growth has been a return to that great theme of Canadian history: building. Sixty per cent of Canada's GDP depends on trade. Canadians need to build now to get our goods and services to the growing global middle class, projected to grow from 1.8 billion today to five billion by 2030.
Canada remains a collection of 13 regional markets separated by a myriad of competing rules and standards that weakens economic growth by increasing costs and limiting choice for consumers, business and governments. It is astonishing that 28 independent countries can collectively lower the economic barriers between them while Canada has been unable to do so between 13 provinces and territories.
Trade between Japan and Canada has stagnated for over a decade. Exports from Canada to Japan grew only four per cent from 2006 to 2015, while Canada's imports from Japan have declined. There is good news -- foreign investment from both sides show an upwards trend -- but business will need help to capitalize on this opportunity.
Where once trade deals dealt with bringing down tariffs to allow for the freer flow of goods between countries, today's trade deals put much more emphasis on "non-tariff barriers" such as laws and regulations within the countries involved in a trade deal -- and grant extraordinary powers to corporations to sue governments that pass laws that hurt their profits.
The most pressing environmental policy problem facing Canada is the possible ratification of the "trade deal" known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The investor protection provisions (called the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism, or ISDS) in that agreement presents a major threat to environmental protection in Canada. Let me tell you why.
Norway and Canada have a strong trade and investment relationship built on complementary resource endowments, similar levels of development, and shared interests and values. Norway's investment in Canada supports Canadian GDP and jobs, and Norwegian investments supply Canada's economy with much-needed capital.
When our democracies try to act on climate, trade agreements get in the way. For over 20 years, we have been fighting ISDS, the investor state dispute settlement clause in Chapter 11 of NAFTA, which allows companies to sue states over their decisions. It is a favourite tool of energy and mining companies.
One of the most troubling, but largely ignored effects of the TPP involves privacy. Privacy is not an issue most associate with a trade agreement, however, the TPP features several anti-privacy measures that would restrict the ability of governments to establish safeguards over sensitive information such as financial and health data as well as information hosted by social media services.
Canada used to excel at industrial strategy, but now we are satisfied with trade, and any type of trade will do. That hands-off mentality, which is at the heart of global trade deals like the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), goes some way to explaining why Canada's trade deficits are growing, faster with free-trade partners than other countries, and the job intensity of our exports is declining.
This will be the first generation of Canadians in our history to be worse off than their parents. That blunt fact is the new reality of our country, where seven per cent of workers are officially jobless (and much more if hidden unemployment is included) and youth unemployment stands at over 13 per cent. And that reality is a direct result of the policies and actions of this Conservative government and the Mulroney government that came before it. Friday's headlines point to the 26,000 auto parts jobs at risk as Harper drives ahead to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.
Monday's Munk Debate is probably going to generate a lot chatter about in the small circles in Canada that actually care about foreign policy. That the three candidates themselves had trouble staying on the foreign side of issues and had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, back to foreign policy is only one indication.
Trade negotiations are growing in importance as developed and developing countries alike increasingly realize that protectionism is not a path to prosperity. Federalism poses challenges for our trade negotiations that are exacerbated by elections at both levels of government in Canada, and among our trading partners. The electoral clock is also ticking on Japanese Diet elections next summer and on U.S. presidential and congressional elections next fall. If the machinery of trade talks ground to a halt every time an election approached, there would be no trade agreements at all -- which is, perhaps, what some people desire.