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Leaked G20 communique show’s Harper’s regressive touch on trade

You can’t hold a G7, G8 or G20 summit without committing to more trade liberalization, fighting protectionism, and completing the Doha round at the WTO. It’s funny because as even my two cats understand at this point, liberalization created the crisis humbling even the most militant free traders. But unlike more reasonable countries whose priorities are elsewhere (job creation, transition to sustainable economies), Harper actually believes that free trade is our only ticket out of the financial and economic morass. He believes that if you say it over and over again, maybe with your eyes closed and thumping shiny red shoes together, these G20 statements actually come true. Which is probably why there’s a bit more oomph in this year’s G20 communique, three pages of which was leaked by Greenpeace yesterday, when it comes to trade.

In a speech on May 19, Trade Minister Peter “The Big Gulp” Van Loan said Canada is a “free trade leader” committed to fighting protectionism “in all its forms.” He said “you simply cannot talk about a strong economy without talking about free trade,” and that you cannot talk about global recovery without it either.

“When the world comes to Canada for the G8 and G20 summits, we’ll be taking every opportunity to remind our guests that partnerships, not protectionism, hold the key to lasting economic recovery,” said Van Loan, insisting that Canada is an example for the world.

Then yesterday, the G20 communique leaked, minus new declarations which are to come out of tomorrow’s very expensive meeting, showing a distinct Harper/Van Loan touch:

Fighting Protectionism and Promoting Trade and Investment – June 11, 2010

While the global economic crisis led to the sharpest decline of trade in more than seventy years, G20 countries chose not to repeat mistakes of the past and yield to the temptation to close our doors to the global economy. Instead, we chose open markets and the opportunities they offer. It was the right choice. Trade volumes are now increasing and are playing a lead role in driving the recovery. We ensured the availability of over $250 billion in trade financing, which can be used by importers and exporters to keep trade flowing. We succeeded in meeting 2010 Aid for Trade targets established in 2005 at the Hong Kong Ministerial, and will support continued efforts to promote capacity building.

We renew for a further three years, until the end of 2013, our commitment to refrain from raising new barriers to investment or trade in goods and services, implementing World Trade Organization (WTO)-inconsistent measures to stimulate exports, or imposing new export restrictions or other barriers. Where any protectionist measures have been enacted in the context of the economic crisis, we agree that these should be lifted.

Open markets play a pivotal role in supporting growth and job creation, and in achieving our goals under the G20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth. In this respect, bringing the WTO Doha Development Round to a successful conclusion as soon as possible is more important than ever. We acknowledge the important progress that has been made and the clear commitment by WTO members in March 2010 in Geneva to conclude the Round. Each of us is ready to make contributions, and we pledge to empower fully our negotiators to undertake the give-and-take necessary to move into endgame negotiations, using all negotiating configurations. We instruct our Trade Ministers to prepare a full assessment of the state of the negotiations and a plan of the way forward for our consideration at the Seoul G20 summit in November of this year.

In the meanwhile, we will continue to seek out other opportunities to liberalize further trade and investment.

The more they do that — seek ‘other opportunities’ in the form of bilateral and regional trade deals — the more they will undermine Doha, reduce the options for governments seeking to build up their economies and get people working, and generally take the world back to a state of pre-crisis instability. In trade, as on the environmental and social fronts, the bank tax, etc, Canada continues to be a regressive, negative force on the world stage.