World in Transition: Trade, Trump, and Technology, was the theme of this year’s business forum held Friday at Chateau Lake Louise.
The event, which is held in conjunction with the World Cup ski racing season opener, has become an important fixture of the business calendar the past few years, regularly attracting a world class group of speakers and panelists for discussions on the hot topics in the world.
This year’s event was no exception and drew some 400 participants to the Chateau. Among the presenters were the US Ambassador to Canada, Kelly Craft; the Chinese consul general, Lu Xu; former Bank of Canada governor, David Dodge; and Laura Dawson, who is director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington.
“It was a very interesting day,” Ms. Dawson told me. “We have a new trade arrangement with the United States and Mexico and I expect that will be adopted by all three governments with minimum changes. Canada needs relief from the destabilizing effects of the so-called US national security tariffs and that’s the biggest irritant in the relationship at the moment.”
“Beyond that, though, we need to put in place a number of co-operative initiatives with US departments and agencies at the working level. Key areas are streamlined border procedures for passengers and cargo, an energy infrastructure that is competitive and e-commerce rules that encourage innovation and protect consumer rights.
“This needs to be done in such a way that it does not become a source of further disagreement at the political level.”
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“In addition,” Dawson said, “Canada needs to continue its recent path of examining trading relationships with Europe and with the Pacific Rim. The goal should be to broaden the range of trading options while still paying attention to our largest and most important trading partner.”
Ms. Dawson also took issue with the federal government’s approach to energy policy and to the rising costs of doing business in this country.
The biggest round of applause of the day was saved for pundit Rex Murphy, who told the crowd that “until there are pipelines leaving Alberta and there is oil flowing through them, lips need to close on the phrase ‘carbon tax.'”
As you can imagine, that drew a lot of laughter and applause from the business community.
The value of these exercises is that they provide a snapshot of a world scene at a moment in time. They don’t necessarily provide answers, but they do provide an opportunity for an exchange of views from a number of perspectives. And if they can keep alive one word that is disappearing from our language — concensus — they provide great value.
To be able to find agreement on difficult topics and to see a path forward should provide comfort and confidence to us all.