The future of the neo liberal global economic order is seemingly in play. Brexit, President Trump's “America First” threat to both the NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the growing strength of the anti European Union right pose a threat to business as usual. However, there is room for doubt over the staying power of right-wing populism, which owes more to racism than to economic nationalism per se. And corporate interests are mobilizing to preserve the very real gains they secured for themselves under the the current global trade regime, including NAFTA.
In their 2015 election platform, the Trudeau Liberals identified a number of items related to Employment Insurance (EI) that they would change: reversing the Harper EI reforms defining ‘suitable work’; reducing the waiting period for EI benefits; reducing EI premiums; introducing more flexible parental leave; providing better access to compassionate care; and increasing funding for employment and training programs managed by provinces, territories and Aboriginal labour market organizations.
On July 13th, the Bank of Canada began to tighten monetary policy, arguing that the economy would be operating at full capacity by the end of this year. This action was guided more by the economic dogma of a “natural” unemployment rate crafted by Milton Friedman back in the 1970s than by hard evidence of a looming increase in inflation.
The Broadbent Institute’s leadership development and training mission is to build backbone for left organizing in Canada. This takes on many forms, including training activists for campaigns. Increasingly we are aligning our organizational objectives, and that has opened new areas of leadership activity that focuses on our policy priorities: climate change, inequality and democratic renewal. This has led us to focus on supporting the development of a community benefits movement in Canada.
Due to the strong lobbying efforts of labour and social activists, Canada's minimum wage floor is rising significantly from the current level of between $11 and $12 per hour depending upon the province. A new norm of $15 per hour will be in place, in Alberta by October, 2018, in Ontario by January, 2019, and very likely in British Columbia under the terms of the NDP-Green Party agreement.
Global Affairs Canada is conducting public consultations on a possible Canada-China Free Trade Agreement. Based on the record since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, further liberalization of trade and investment on the current model would not benefit most Canadians.
Following the ground breaking work of Branko Milanovic at the World Bank, economists increasingly accept that the rules of the liberal global economy have produced both winners and losers. The big winners have been the top one percent around the world who have benefited from a global rise in corporate profits and senior executive incomes and, to a degree, workers in developing countries who have enjoyed rising real wages.
It is now three months into the Presidency of Donald Trump, and policy makers around the world are still unsure how to respond to the new administration's challenge to the liberal global order and the looming threat of “America First” trade policies.
Economics textbooks generally begin with a simple model in which prices of goods and services are determined by supply and demand in competitive markets and firms are “price-takers.” Yet it is much closer to reality to view the world we live in as one in which a handful of very large companies dominate most markets and have the power to administer prices so as to earn well above average profits or “rents.”
While Canadians are understandably focused on what the election of President Trump means for our bilateral trading relationship and the future of NAFTA, a much bigger issue for the global economy is the pending clash between the United States and China.