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July 23, 2018

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Political Science

I am interested in how trade policy intersects with other policy concerns that we have. Many non-trade issues now crop up in debates about trade, including health care, labour, environmental, and cultural policy. In general, this overlap is not a problem. But, sometimes governments have to make trade-offs in one policy area to accommodate the other when there is overlap. This is compounded by the fact that governments are signing more and more trade agreements. I am very interested in how they navigate this challenge.

In this article, Limits to deep integration: Canada between the EU and the US, trade policy is intersecting with different national approaches to intellectual property protection. It also bumps up against concerns about the authenticity of local products and with sovereign governments’ right to make domestic policy.

I was very pleased to learn that the Canadian government has several strategies for making sure that provisions in our various trade agreements do not conflict with one another.

In addition, I did not expect the focus of this article – geographical indications (GIs) – to be headline news in Canada! GIs are products that have a special link to place. They may be associated with a traditional production process or their quality or reputation may be defined by its geographical origin. Feta cheese is a good example. Genuine feta only comes from Greece and is usually made only from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Feta is a protected GI in Europe, meaning that only authentic Greek producers can use the term in their product packaging.

In recent weeks, the new Italian government said that it will not ratify the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) precisely because its GI provisions provide insufficient protections to Italian agricultural producers. This is an extremely interesting political position because CETA actually expands GI protection in Canada, though not to the levels that Italian producers can expect in the EU. This development just drives home for me how consequential our trade agreements can be. Even some of the seemingly more arcane and technical elements can resonate with certain constituencies, with real political and economic consequence!

My next project will be a special issue on the intersection between trade and culture. In many ways, this is an old debate and something that I have been thinking about for a long time. But, it is evolving in interesting ways as we sign more trade agreements and as we increasingly engage with culture via digital platforms. My special issue will explore how governments across the world have dealt with these developments.

We have entered a new era where trade is concerned. We are signing more and more trade agreements and many go well beyond tariff reduction, which used to be the main focus of such agreements. Increasingly, myriad domestic regulations are implicated in trade agreements. Many have started calling these deals “deep” or “second generation” agreements to capture this new focus. Governments, including our own, have had to devise effective strategies to navigate this new terrain.

I hope to contribute to a conversation taking place in my field between trade scholars as we try to understand and explain the proliferation of so-called “deep” agreements. However, if non-trade scholars and others happen to read this work and deepen their understanding of trade a result that would be great!

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