Canada and the EU: Trading Up

From an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Nafta-Plus“:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France signed an agreement Friday to begin negotiations for a free trade pact between Canada and the European Union. A Canada-EU study released last week outlines the joint economic benefits of such a partnership, with two-way trade estimated to increase 22.9% by 2014.

The proposed partnership goes a lot further than Nafta. In addition to allowing free trade in goods and services, it would harmonize regulations, open up the air-travel market, and boost opportunities in government-procurement. Most important, it would free the labor market so that skilled workers could move easily back and forth across the Atlantic.

The free-labor point is key. As recently as half a century ago, Canadians and Americans were pretty much free to work in either country without the visa restrictions that apply today. Under the proposed Canada-EU agreement, a computer geek from, say, the University of Waterloo — one of whose alumni developed the BlackBerry — would be able to take a job in Hamburg or Dublin if he wished; forget about Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, organized labor is working tirelessly for a more static, rules-bound labor market. The Journal asks rhetorically, “If Canada and the EU are successful in liberating their economic relationship, we have a question: Can the U.S. join too?” Organized labor and its allies have an answer: “No.”

In related news, rollowing Prime Minister Harper’s meeting Friday with Sarkozy, he addressed an international Francophone summit. From Canadian Press:

QUEBEC — Prime Minister Stephen Harper voiced the need Sunday for the world to keep trade routes open and fight protectionism as the planet spins through a financial slowdown.

Developing countries in particular need access to trade opportunities, Harper told the closing news conference at the summit of French-speaking nations in Quebec City.

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