Prosperity depends on keeping trade open and liberal

13 February 2020

This joint opinion article by Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott and Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum co chair Norman Steinberg appeared in The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday 11 February 2020

As Australian communities battled the devastating bushfires, the nation welcomed the arrival of more than 170 experienced Canadian fire fighters to our shores to bolster our volunteer numbers.

Amid the crisis, it was a welcome reminder that in an uncertain world Australia has friends and economic partners it can rely on.

This year Canadians also felt a pain all too familiar to Australians as news broke of a passenger aircraft shot from the sky in Iran and the subsequent quest for justice.

As we enter a new decade, the rules of global trade are being challenged. The world’s two largest economies are locked in a trade war, and in Europe the Brexit saga and its trade implications continue to play out.

Next month’s annual Australia-Canada Economic Leadership forum, held this year in Melbourne, will be a chance to reflect on the values and shared priorities that make our relationship strong and to remember why working together in the pursuit of open trade matters.

We share a heritage, liberal democratic principles and institutions, an optimistic outlook, recognising that global trade is the engine of growth. It is our common values of the rule of law and our open, respectful and dignified societies that allow us to work together so easily.

Two-way investment between our nations is worth more than $70 billion. Whether Australians ride to work on Canadian-built trains in Brisbane, or Canadians work for an Australian company in Montreal, this is something worth protecting.

The AusCan forum aims to promote further job creating investment and economic opportunities to strengthen our two nations.

Open and liberal trade has delivered prosperity to communities in Australia and Canada, generating more opportunities for our people, boosting living standards and creating two of the wealthiest nations in the world.

The trade story is bigger than just our two nations. Worldwide, freer and more open trade has lifted about one billion people out of extreme poverty.

Together, our nations are powerful champions for freer trade and the rules based system that has delivered more for all.

And we should not forget that a huge part of Australia and Canada’s economic success has been underpinned by an openness to migration and a recognition that diversity makes us stronger.

But the challenges of global instability, rapid technological change and dissatisfaction with institutions persist. It is not surprising, therefore, that some communities in North America and Australia feel threatened, under siege, looking inward, and calling for a return to protectionist policies.

To combat these forces, Australia and Canada must continue to work together to demonstrate the value of trade to communities around the world.

Our nations cannot afford to take a backward step on promoting open trade and global engagement, and neither can the rest of the world. Australia and Canada are unified in amplifying this message around the world. 

This is why the AusCan forum in Melbourne is vital, bringing together senior business, non-profit and political leaders to strengthen and deepen the ties between our two liberal democracies, demonstrating our shared commitment to the values that have seen the world prosper — and bringing a more powerful voice in defence of open trade.


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