EDITORIAL: Free trade a benefit for British Columbians

It makes good sense to expand markets for our seafood, lumber and other products

We do not agree with the hue and cry, the Chicken Little attitude, whenever a trade deal is reached that reduces tariffs and impediments for Canadian products to reach more markets.

It was the same thing in 1988 when then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney signed the free trade agreement with the United States. While we’re not about to tout the overall performance of Mulroney as PM, the free trade deal with the U.S. has worked in Canada’s favour.

We were going to be swallowed up by the U.S., become the 51st state, detractors warned back in 1988. What a load of rubbish.

That’s the same fear-mongering we are hearing now with news of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Forget for a moment the timing of this announcement (two weeks before election day). There are a dozen countries involved and it’s possible the timing of the announcement was out of Canada’s hands. Or Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted this timing to help his campaign. Whatever.

How is the ability to sell our goods to larger markets, without tariffs and other impediments, a bad thing? Why must we be scared by competition?

Ah yes, there are those subsidies, the taxpayer and/or consumer-funded propping up of certain industries. Yes, those industries could be hurt by a more free flow of goods in and out of Canada. It’s a cold world when it comes to business, agreed.

We are bullish on Canada. We believe in our industries, our innovative minds, our cutting-edge thinking. We believe in the people of this country and their work ethic. We believe our products and our people can and will (and do) stack up against anything or anyone in the world.

Now, free trade doesn’t necessarily mean fair. The U.S. continually refuses to play nice with softwood lumber. They have an inferior product (it’s a latitude thing mostly) they continue to prop up. This new Pacific agreement (which still requires approval in many nations) will also have its challenges. If we have to pay more for Canadian dairy products and provide subsidies to Canadian producers because of health concerns regarding dairy products from other countries, that seems logical. We should pay for that peace of mind.

But opening up more Pacific markets for B.C.’s lumber or seafood? How is that not something to be encouraged? We rely too much on the U.S. to buy our exports — the diversification of markets through trade agreements like this sets this country up for a better future.

— Editorial by John Harding

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