An update on my research

Since I’m paid in part by taxpayers (via Ontario Government doctoral funding – the rest comes from a private foundation) I figure I owe them an update on the outcome of research here at the Balsillie School. My research focuses on the intersection of politics and economics, and how this relates to government policy on innovation and industry. Surrounding that is a general focus on how Canada adapts to an evolving global economy.

Lately I’ve focused a good deal of my attention on  Canadian trade policy. Here are excerpts from two papers, soon to be published, that touch on domestic and international factors that influence Canada’s trade strategy. If you’d like to read either let me know. My ongoing research on how Canadian provinces and American states facilitate innovation and new industrial sectors isn’t ready to be published but I’m happy to chat about it.

The first trade paper, “Contemporary Dynamics in Canadian Trade Policy,” will be presented to an academic audience in Guangzhou, China later this month. It focuses on three domestic factors that influence federal trade negotiations. Notably it highlights the growing influence of both Provincial and Municipal levels of government in Canada on trade policy, as well as providing an overview of public opinion on trade, how it is evolving, and how this may influence Canada’s trade strategy.  It argues that increased transparency and engagement on trade negotiations are necessary to gain both sub-national government and public approval.

The second, co-authored with University of Waterloo Professor Andrew F. Cooper, “Between Collective Action and a fragmented Political Economy: the G20 and the Return of Protectionist Impulses,” will be published in a forthcoming edition of Contemporary Politics. In it we argue that protectionist interests have become increasingly visible across G20 countries. These interests have gained power as a response to growing unemployment across mature economies and a generalized global race for employment. We argue that while the G20 has attempted to play a stabilizing force across these economies, it has so far been unable to coalesce real commitment towards ongoing trade liberalization.

Abstract 1: Contemporary Dynamics in Canadian Trade Policy

Since 2006 the Canadian federal government has embarked on an aggressive trade strategy, privileging the completion of bilateral free trade agreements as a means of diversifying the Canadian economy away from its reliance on the United States, as well as facilitating the economy’s rebound in the wake of the post-2007 global financial crisis.This strategy, however, has been complicated by the increasing engagement of provinces and territories in Canada’s trade agenda, as well as the increasingly loud voices of Canadian municipalities regarding how such agreements land at the local level. Provincial opposition to intellectual property provisions in the proposed Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with the European Union and the more than 40 municipal requests for exemption from the agreement are part and parcel of the increasingly complex dynamic underway as it relates to Canada’s trade strategy and the broader efforts related to economic policy in a stagnant, post-crisis environment. In addition to these structural factors, an evolving perception and receptiveness to international trade by the Canadian public further complicates Canada’s trade dynamic.

This paper will analyze how these three dynamics both collaborate and contest each other to produce Canada’s contemporary trade policy and thereafter examine how international partners should interpret these internal dynamics. In so doing, it provides a detailed examination of the interplay of three forces in Canadian trade policy and, with their addition to traditional sectoral-based considerations, provides a nuanced understanding of contemporary Canadian trade dynamics that a simple state-to-state approach misses.

Abstract 2: Between Collective Action and a fragmented Political Economy: the G20 and the Return of Protectionist Impulses 

Not unlike the 1930s, the current state of global economic governance is marked by a vacuum of leadership as neither traditional leading states nor emerging economic actors have proven able or willing to coordinate collective action. This interregnum has allowed space for the G20 to emerge as a calibrating force for the maintenance of a liberal economic order. Protectionist impulses, however, are increasingly emerging victorious as unemployment and domestic interests drive political action. The stabilizing presence of the G20 is thus tested in an environment privileging divisive domestic-oriented forces allowed greater space under conditions in a fragmented post-hegemonic global economy. These spaces for domestic concern, and the receptiveness of policy leaders to them, represent a return to the promise of embedded liberalism and away from the era of hyper-liberalization that has marked the past several decades of broadly measured economic growth.