trade builds a nation
Trade is fundamental to Canada
Aboriginal nations traded with each other. Seeking routes to Asia through the arctic, European explorers discovered Canada accidentally. In the 17th century couriers de bois (literally wood runners in English) traded with First Nations in exchange for protection and local guidance through a vast, harsh wilderness.
Independent coureurs des bois played an important role in the European exploration of the continent and in establishing trading contacts – Canadian Encyclopedia
French Voyageurs in the 18th century traveled Canada’s interior waterways in search of furs, fish and wood. Historian and author, Carolyn Podruchny, notes traces of Voyageurs remain in place names all across North America. Ottawa is derived from the Algonquin word “adawe”, which means ‘to trade’.
Country formed with a grand bargain
On March 29, 1867, Queen Victoria gave Royal Assent to Canada’s British North America Act. The grand bargain to form a nation was a trade deal too, since it gave Parliament the power over:
The Regulation of Trade and Commerce – 1867 British North America Act.
Not just hewers of wood, drawers of water
Since extracting and trading natural resources is how Canada began, ingrained in this history is a common description of Canadians. ‘Hewers of wood, drawers of water’ is a national image of menial labourers and lumberjacks. A continued fondness for wearing plaid keeps the image alive.
Yet, things have evolved quite a bit. The world has demanded different goods and services. Canadians respond with innovation and ingenuity. Eventually fur was replaced with prairie production and exports of grains like the Canadian crop invention, canola. Feats of Canadian engineers created The Shard, the Canada Arm and the Confederation Bridge. All are symbolic of our efforts to build connections at home, abroad and in outer space.
Today, Canada is one of the world’s leading trading nations. Exports reached US$390 billion in 2016, an increase of more than 23% since 2009. That’s about $11,000 for every one of the 35 million Canadians.
Wood remains one of Canada’s top exports. Minerals, including gold, silver, and diamonds, now make up the fourth most valuable trade sector, worth $18 billion in 2016. That is much improved since 1578 when Martin Frobisher brought ‘fools gold’, or worthless iron pyrite, from Canada’s arctic back to England. From energy to aerospace and telecommunications, Canadian’s development and use of technology has changed labour from menial to more knowledge-based.
A history of international trade deals
The Auto Pact of 1965, the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement of 1989, and the subsequent NAFTA agreement in 1994 exponentially allowed for expanded trade with our largest customer, the United States and brought Mexico into the deal. Automobiles are Canada’s number one export by value: $64 billion.
Canada trades with the world as a member of the World Trade Organization, and through numerous bi-lateral agreements with diverse countries including Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Israel, Jordan, Korea and Peru.
By the time Canada celebrates 150 years on July 1, 2017, it is expected that laws on both sides of the Atlantic will be passed to allow CETA, or Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement to come into force. CETA re-connects Canada’s trading heritage with 28 countries in Europe. It took 10 years of talks.
The signing of CETA is a historic occasion. This modern and progressive agreement will reinforce the strong links between Canada and the EU, and create vast new opportunities for Canadians and Europeans alike –
Rt. Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, October 30, 2016.
Trade is a founding pillar of Canada. It remains fundamental to the country’s present and future. Canada continues to build bridges with Japan, India, and has entered ‘exploratory discussions’ with China on new agreements.
Negotiating sound trade deals is the challenge and responsibility granted by Confederation.