In Canada, which is heavily trade-dependent, free trade has been popular for several decades. For Conservative or Liberal governments, inking a new pact was reflexively hailed as a big achievement. In other nations, it was much the same. In keeping with the globalization drive, economic elites sought and supported highly liberalized trade agreements.
But no longer. The trend has been upended by the trade-war populism of Donald Trump, Joe Biden’s nationalist industrial policy (which maintained Mr. Trump’s tariffs on China), technological change, and the pandemic’s impact on supply chains.
The free trade era is gone, and with it, a big Canadian advantage. Gordon Ritchie, a principal negotiator of our free trade agreement with the United States, doesn’t mince his words on the impact: “Absolutely and unequivocally bad,” he said in an interview. “It’s a terrible thing for Canada.”
The country faces a potentially shrinking market in the U.S., China, and in other markets owing to protectionist headwinds. Dating back all the way to the Second World War, Mr. Ritchie noted, we have had the benefit of a trade liberalization policy orientation, especially in Washington.
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