The following is an excerpt from an op-ed published in the March 2015 issue of IRPP's magazine, Policy Options. The op-ed was authored by our President and CEO, Perrin Beatty, and by our Director, International Policy, Cam Vidler.
Progress on liberalizing global trade has stalled. The business community must help bridge diverging national interests and refocus the debate on a common agenda.
Things have changed a lot since the founding of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. Once a symbol of an inevitable march toward global free markets, today it more often serves as a reminder of how quixotic that process has become. Fatigue is spilling over to the bilateral and regional level, where there has been a flurry of negotiations, but few meaningful outcomes. Who would fault busy executives for turning their attention to other things?
Many would like to blame the current state of affairs on out-of-touch bureaucrats and short-sighted politicians. Yet the business community has responsibilities too. Companies and their representatives need to define new priorities and communicate effectively the gains that free trade brings to consumers, workers and innovators. They need to build relationships across borders and bridge diverging national interests.
So what can business do to set right the ship of trade? What strategies will bring forth the next wave of liberalization?
It starts by better understanding how shifts in the global balance of power have made it harder for countries to cooperate on trade. In this new reality, national business groups should strengthen ties with their foreign counterparts and apply pressure at multiple points in an increasingly fragmented regime. Diplomacy can no longer be left to the diplomats.
Read the complete article.