Trade by Politics: Is This the “New Normal”?

October 4, 2019 | Brenda Dyack

Trade by Politics: Is This the “New Normal”?

2019 has thrown a few curves balls at farmers with the full impact yet to be felt. Harvests will be affected by this year’s unusual weather. Farmers selling on world markets are dealing with erratic market risks. Add to this the current debates about the authority of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to manage the rules that support international trade stability. And the biggest challenge? Trade is currently dominated by politics.

Many have already anticipated that future wars will be fought on economic terms. Are we seeing that now? Will economic might win? Will there be a permanent return to the “beggar thy neighbor” policies of the Great Depression? Back then, countries responded by increasing tariffs and other trade restrictions to block imports, hoping to keep their own people in work. Collective world wealth benefits suffered as a result of these protectionist policies. 

We can all imagine the worst that can happen if “trade by politics,” uncontrolled by the WTO, is the new normal. Here in Ontario, the commentaries on the dire consequences of political might are multiplying. It is not hard to forecast the economic consequences for farmers if international conflicts play out, leaving Canadian farmers as collateral damage.

The big question facing farmers now concerns strategy. There is no way individual farmers can successfully endure worldwide commodity challenges on their own. Even the potential for commodity groups to individually produce solutions is limited. There are real risks to each clamoring for support. If individual perspectives dominate, could each be reduced to “beggaring their neighbour” to the collective detriment of all farmers? Will premature demands made to our governments produce early wins for some but long-run losses for everyone?

It is worthwhile considering how much better our collective future will be if we resist the wedge politics tricking us into working independently. We need to work together. After all, all farmers are facing the same question here – how do we ensure the future sustainability of the farm sector in Canada if trade by politics is the new normal?

The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario believes this is a time for unity. We are working with other accredited farm organizations. We are confident that working together, we can present a unified voice for Ontario farmers in the face of the current world trade challenges.

And, as always, we want to hear from you. We hope you will join us at CFFO’s Provincial Council meeting on October 30th, where trade challenges will be the key issue. We hope to see you there.

Brenda Dyack is Executive Director/Acting Director of Research & Policy for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.