Navigating NAFTA - Part One

Recently our provincial government has been very self-congratulatory about export success and how the Mighty Island has been steadily asserting itself in the global marketplace. Yet, with uncertainty hanging over the future of NAFTA, I hope they also have a plan to ensure the future prosperity of our economy, which is heavily dependent on our current exports to the United States.

There is much to celebrate in our recent successes, as some Island companies have matured to become significant exporters, bringing wealth and employment to the Island. However, this narrow economic strategy focused on exports has also exposed us to the vulnerabilities of a fickle global marketplace. Our ability to succeed has become increasingly tied to factors outside our control: the price of oil, the value of the Canadian dollar and the whims of protectionist world leaders.

It is time to create a better balance in our provincial economy. If we want to enjoy an economy built on resilience and diversity, a smarter approach is required.

Let’s be clear that we’re not talking about an abandonment of domestic and international trade – it has always been and will continue to be an essential part of our province’s economy. What we are talking about is a conscious and concerted effort by the Island government to create a much saner balance of local, regional and global participation.

Despite claims by the current government that we have been diversifying our overseas markets, we are actually more dependent than ever on a single country - the U.S. - where 77% of our exports go. And we are all aware of how trade and tariff decisions made in distant Washington have a direct and serious impact on local companies. For example, earlier this summer there were concerns around accessing aluminum cans for our thriving craft breweries.

With trade talks dragging on and the anti-Canadian rhetoric from American officials escalating, it is time for the PEI government to realize our economic health cannot be held hostage by the capricious impulses of Donald Trump.  We need to acknowledge the NAFTA elephant in the room, and begin to work towards building a more autonomous, diverse and resilient Island economy.

Next week I will be presenting some ideas on how we can address these issues.