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Business lobbyists asked to help develop Canada’s trade policy

It’s International Trade Day, which is apparently only celebrated in Canada and then only by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and federal government, so it’s not as international as the name suggests. In any case, International Trade Minister Ed Fast used the occasion to announce he was establishing an advisory panel to “help guide Canada’s ambitious, pro-trade plan in large, dynamic and fast-growing priority markets.”

The panelists are to help the Harper government update its Global Commerce Strategy, first issued in 2008. The new strategy, to be released next year, will “align Canada’s trade and investment objectives in specific high-growth and strategic priority markets, with an eye to ensuring that Canada is branded to its greatest advantage in those markets.” Unlike other countries to have recently reassessed trade policies, including allies the United States and Australia, Fast’s advisory group has no labour representation.

Members include:

– Murad Al-Katib, Alliance Grain Traders Inc., President and Chief Executive Officer, Chair of the Minister of International Trade’s Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Advisory Board;
– Paul Reynolds, Canaccord Financial Inc., President and Chief Executive Officer;
– Kathleen Sullivan, Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, Executive Director;
– The Honourable Perrin Beatty, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, President and Chief Executive Officer;
– The Honourable John Manley, Canadian Council of Chief Executives, President and Chief Executive Officer;
– Catherine Swift, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairwoman;
– Jayson Myers, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, President and Chief Executive Officer;
– Brian Ferguson, Cenovus Energy Inc., President and Chief Executive Officer;
– Serge Godin, CGI Group Inc., Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board; and
Indira Samarasekera, University of Alberta, President.

Jason Fekete at Postmedia noticed that several members of the advisory committee want Canada to abandon its “antiquated” supply management system in order to pave the country’s way into Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, which are expected to wrap up by the end of 2012.

“Manley… has repeatedly said the government should begin planning for a transition from supply management,” says an article posted to the Vancouver Sun this afternoon. “He recently told Postmedia News it’s ‘very much in the national interest’ to grow out of the antiquated supply management system that ‘has become an impediment to our expanding trade interests in our own region and elsewhere.'”

It’s worth pointing out that Australia’s 2011 revised trade policy, which renounces the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in bilateral and regional free trade deals, was based on an extensive Productivity Commission study that included participation from union and other non-industry stakeholders. The Harper government expects to announce its new Global Commerce Strategy in 2013.