Thursday, October 02, 2008

We spill more beer than we export...

Why Mexican’s Don’t Drink Molson’s is a powerful book. Written in 2007, it documents Canada’s lamentable performance on the competitive stage internationally. Examples after examples are cited to show that we just don’t “get it”. Pointing out that we now spill more beer than we export, the book challenges entrepreneurs to work hard to think beyond the US market and get moving.

But its not easy. We are hampered by an anti-commerce culture, especially in our educational institutions. We are also not helped by unfocused and over complex government policies, the deplorable behaviour of the Export Development Corporation (EDC) and by the absence of strong free trade within Canada.

We have an election in just 11 days. None of the parties are really speaking to the fact that Canada’s competitiveness and productivity are falling, other countries are dominating the world of trade (Australia, for one) and we simply don’t have a real clue about how to build strong companies which relentlessly pursue global markets. While Stephen Harper has indicated some intention to open up Canada to more extensive foreign investments, some real obstacles to trade within Canada remain. For example, the egg, milk and what marketing boards remain. The complexity of inter-Provincial trade remains puzzling and expensive (costing in excess of $33 billion a year to manage). The CRTC continues to impede the growth of our telecommunications and cultural industries and Industry Canada seems increasingly like a pointless organization.

Perhaps worst of all, we simply don’t get innovation, continuing to see innovation as about universities, research and highly qualified academics. Its time we stood up and recognized that its about firms – firms developing products and services which command revenue from customers and which enable them to occupy significant market share globally.

Our preoccupation with the US – which today looks like a fragile obsession and a dangerous one - coupled with a blind reliance on the World Trade Organization means that we have few bilateral trade agreements which have led to expansion of markets for Canadian goods and services. This book draws attention to the need to aggressively pursue such biltaral agreements – nothing in the position of the parties mentions this at all.

Our preoccupation with local matters – Quebec, Ontario’s fiscal challenges – is blinding us to play a different role in international trade.

So this book should be compulsory reading for all policy makers and all public servants which manage any part of the innovation supply chain or our efforts to grow our economy. Pay attention to the fact that we are not punching our weight in world trade, our productivity is falling relative to others and our competitiveness is in decline.

No comments: