Canada Must Be Champion of Open Trade: C.D. Howe Institute Crisis Working Group on Business Continuity and Trade

April 9, 2020

Canada must champion open international trade and remain an ‘honest partner’ in the face of a worrying trend among G7 nations towards export restrictions on critical goods, says the C.D. Howe Institute’s Crisis Working Group on Business Continuity and Trade. They emphasized that open international trade is essential to Canada – both in the immediate crisis and for the long-term.  The working group observed a worrisome tide of export restrictions on critical goods internationally – most immediately reflected in the US president’s threat to prohibit surgical mask exports to Canada.

In this volatile international context, Canada must act on issues within its control. Specifically, Canada must invest in:

  • Robust international relationships to draw upon in times of need;
  • Strategic stockpiles of critical goods (e.g., personal protective equipment); and
  • Long-run capabilities (e.g., skills and innovation) to support resiliency and rebound from this crisis.

In addition, Canada should take immediate measures to:

  • Temporarily reduce import tariffs on critical supplies, including agricultural products;
  • Reduce the risk of COVID-19 disruptions in essential sectors (e.g., food processing plants); and
  • Aggressively address interprovincial trade barriers.