‘Free trade’? Or just warmed over mercantilism? It’s notable that most ‘free trade’ pacts run to thousands of pages of exemptions and protections for favoured institutions and industries. Whatever you want to call it – ‘freer trade’? – that’s deliberately confusing. Free trade would be getting out of the way of people that want to trade goods and services. You don’t need any state oversight for that. The protectionism Harper’s referring to is likely just the response of other mixed economies to protect themselves from the current economic warfare. Why not call it what it is? In any case, governments must not be run like corporations. That’s the bottom line.
November 22, 2008
|U.S. President George W. Bush, right, meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the APEC Summit in Lima, Saturday. (Associated Press)|
Prime Minister Stephen Harper used his speech at Saturday’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to send a message that a freer trading system is the best way to restore world economic prosperity.
He told the APEC summit in Lima, Peru, that countries around the world should be “vigilant” against the rise of protectionism as they grapple with their slowing economies.
Harper said the world is entering an economic period that is “potentially as dangerous” as anything the world has seen since 1929. However, he said, the Great Depression was not caused by a stock market collapse, but by government policies and protectionist trade barriers that followed the crash. [Ed. Note: ...and what kind of policies were those? Look it up.]
Harper said freer trade in North America has created millions of jobs in the last 15 years, and he pledged Canada will remain open to international trade.
“When it comes to Canada’s support of free and open economies and markets, our view is based on the success of our North American partnerships,” he said. “We took a close and trusting relationship with the United States and we transformed it into the most successful commercial partnership in the history of the world.”
The prime minister said Canada is committed to “pursuing mutually beneficial economic relations with like-minded nations” around the world.
He pointed to a free-trade agreement signed this year with Peru, calling it a “great step forward.”
Harper said “another important step” was Friday’s signing of a tentative free-trade deal with Colombia.
He also said countries that choose to implement fiscal stimulus packages may find it’s essential to run budgetary deficits.
“Unlike most countries, we were able to execute this fiscal stimulus while staying in surplus. However, we did agree at the G20 [summit in Washington] last week that additional fiscal stimulus should be used to sustain global demand if monetary policy continues to prove to be inadequate.
“These are, of course, the classic circumstances under which budgetary deficits are essential,” Harper said.
But he added that whatever short-terming spending his government pursues, it “will ensure that Canada does not return to long-term structural budgetary deficits.”
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