Meet Canada’s new International Trade Minister

francois-phillippe-champagneFrançois-Phillippe Champagne, a lawyer who’s worked for a string of major multinationals, Champagne knows the world of global trade—but says Canadians must reap the benefits at home.

Arguably the biggest promotion in today’s federal cabinet shuffle goes to François-Philippe Champagne, who vaults from parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, a supporting role just outside cabinet, to succeeding Chrystia Freeland in the high-profile post of minister of international trade.

I say “arguably” because an obvious case could be made that Freeland is, in fact, the key moving part in the shuffle. In taking over from Stéphane Dion as foreign minister, she notches up noticeably in prestige and profile. But Champagne, previously known only to attentive Ottawa insiders, in a single stride becomes an unignorable front-bench player for anyone watching federal politics.

This doesn’t come entirely as a surprise. Before he jumped into politics, Champagne held down serious jobs in international business. A lawyer, he was senior counsel and vice-president at ABB Group, a Swiss engineering giant, and then had a string of titles, including strategic development director, at AMEC, a big London-based project-management company focused on the energy sector. But he never hid his political ambitions, and returned to Shawinigan, Que., where he grew up (yes, in Jean Chrétien’s hometown) to win the Saint-Maurice-Champlain riding in the 2015 election.

Last month, before rumours of an imminent cabinet shuffle were much in the wind, I interviewed him at his office just off Parliament Hill. An upbeat, diminutive, and youthful 46, he riffed confidently on the challenges facing the Canadian economy.

And now that he’s taking over the trade portfolio, Champagne’s perspective on Canada’s position in the world economy is even more relevant. He sees plenty of room for improvement. For instance, he cited Australia and Britain as countries that do a better job selling themselves to international investors. Canada’s profile abroad is too often, he suggested, a fragmented one.

“I have been in a room in London where provinces were pitching against each other,” he said, recalling his days in the private sector. “I didn’t think, as a Canadian ex-pat, this really was the best way.” Champagne touted Morneau’s plan to create something called the Invest in Canada Hub, announced in last fall’s economic statement, as a step toward a “one-stop shopping” solution to marketing the national brand.

He argued the time is right for Canada to present itself more assertively, checking off the country’s selling points in an unsettled world. “Stability, predictability? Yes, you can see ahead. Rule of law? You know, if you build a plant here, 50 years from now it’s still going to be yours; you’re not going to have a change of regime. And you talk natural resources, low cost of electricity, fairly low cost of doing business, favourable tax rates.”

After Champagne waxed on for a while about Canada’s advantages as an open, trading economy, and a beacon for foreign investment, I asked if that vision remains politically viable in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit. Isn’t it likely that many Canadians, deep down, share the anxieties of English and American voters who responded last year to more protectionist, defensive rhetoric?

Champagne said that’s not what he hears in his own rural and small-town Quebec riding. He claims voters there, from truck drivers to lumber industry workers, tend to grasp that trade is essential to their livelihoods. But it’s crucial, he argued, for governments to make sure most people can see the benefits of liberal economic policy flowing their way.

So he cited measures from last spring’s budget, including the new Canada Child Benefit and the boost to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for lowest-income seniors. “People get it,” he said. “They see that, from the growth that we’re aspiring to achieve for the country, there is a piece of that for them.”

And he contrasted that with the discontent he noticed, back when he was based for five years in London, over how globalized trade and investment seemed to benefit only “a very discrete group” of the highly educated Brits. He added cautiously: “It’s not for me to talk about other countries, but I’m just talking from personal experience. You could see at some stage there was this imbalance.”

For Canada to avoid a Brexit-like backlash, the economy must keep generating wealth and spreading it around. Champagne agrees with economists who say that will be hard to sustain, since our workforce just isn’t expanding like it used to. “A lot of the growth in our country came after World War Two, with the influx of population from Europe, mainly. Then in the 1970s, women came to the workforce,” he said. “Now what we’re facing is that population in Canada is aging more than the world population.”

He said the federal policy response to the demographic crunch of more retired and few working-age Canadians can’t be merely incremental. “In an era of slow growth we need to have big, bold ideas,” he said. “We need to be ambitious.”

Up to now, Champagne has worked in Morneau’s shadow, helping develop policy ideas like the finance minister’s infrastructure bank and investment hub. Freeland showed, when she was finalizing Canada’s trade deal with the European Union, how a trade minister can make a mark—and secure a cabinet promotion. Now, Trudeau is giving Champagne his chance, and Ottawa has a key new player to watch.

Article originally published here
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The Age of Sustainable Development

sustainableSustainable development is the central drama of our time. The world’s governments are currently negotiating a set of Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, for the period 2015-2030, following the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which ran from 2000-2015. The MDGs focus on ending extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease. They have been the most important global development goals in the U.N.’s history. The SDGs will continue the fight against extreme poverty, but also add the challenges of ensuring more equitable economic growth and environmental sustainability, especially the key goal of curbing the dangers of human-induced climate change.

The starting point of sustainable development is our crowded planet. There are now 7.2 billion people on the planet, roughly 9 times the 800 million people estimated to have lived in 1750, at the start of the Industrial Revolution. The world population continues to rise rapidly, by around 75 million people per year. Soon enough there will be 8 billion by the 2020s, and these billions of people are looking for their foothold in the world economy.

The world economy is vast, growing rapidly (by 3–4 percent per year in scale), and highly unequal in the distribution of income within countries and between countries. Ours is a world of fabulous wealth and extreme poverty: billions of people enjoy longevity and good health unimaginable in previous generations, yet at least 1 billion people live in such abject poverty that they struggle for mere survival every day.

The world economy is not only remarkably unequal but also remarkably threatening to Earth itself. The unprecedentedly large scale of the world economy is creating an unprecedented environmental crisis, one that threatens the lives and well-being of billions of people and the survival of millions of other species on the planet, and perhaps even our own.

Thus we arrive at the Age of Sustainable Development. As an intellectual pursuit, sustainable development tries to make sense of the interactions of three complex systems: the world economy, the global society, and the Earth’s physical environment. How does an economy of 7.2 billion people and $90 trillion gross world output change over time? How does a global society of such inequality of income, wealth, and power function? And what happens when the world economy is on a collision course with the physical environment?

As a normative (or ethical) outlook, Sustainable development suggests a set of societal objectives or goals to which the world should aspire. The world’s nations will soon adopt Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) precisely to help guide the future course of economic and social development on the planet. Sustainable development: SDGs call for socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth.

To achieve the economic, social, and environmental objectives of the SDGs, a fourth objective must also be achieved: good governance. Among these core functions of government are the provision of social services such as health care and education; the provision of infrastructure such as roads, ports, and power; the protection of individuals from crime and violence; the promotion of basic science and new technologies; and the implementation of regulations to protect the environment. And in our world today, good governance cannot refer only to governments. Our well-being depends on the world’s multinational powerful companies obeying the law, respecting the natural environment, and helping the communities in which they operate, especially to help eradicate extreme poverty.

Thus the normative side of sustainable development envisions four basic pillars of a good society and a globally integrated world community: economic prosperity; social inclusion and cohesion; environmental sustainability; and good governance by major social actors, including governments and business. It’s a lot to ask for, and there is no shortage of challenges to achieving sustainable development in practice. Yet the stakes are high. Achieving sustainable development on our crowded, unequal, and degraded planet is the most important challenge facing our generation. The SDGs must be the compass, the lodestar, for the future development of the planet during the period 2015 to mid-century.

The world’s governments, within the framework of the United Nations, are currently attempting to negotiate a framework to help guide humanity through the very difficult environmental crises of our own making. 2015 is the most important year of diplomacy on sustainable development in at least 15 years. There are three mega-summits next year. The first is on Financing for Development, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July 2015. The next is to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, at the UN headquarters in New York, in September 2015. The third is on climate change — the COP21 [21st Conference of Parties] of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change — in Paris in December 2015. It is vital that these negotiations be successful, with the UN playing a central role in leading the world’s governments to set a global sustainable development framework and then to implement that framework in the decades to come.

Setting Millennium Development Goals has made a huge difference in people’s lives, particularly in the poorest places on the planet. Sub-Saharan Africa has benefited enormously from the MDGs, and we can learn from that success in designing the SDGs. As special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general on the MDGs since 2001 (Kofi Annan until 2006, and Ban Ki-moon since 2007), I have seen how seriously many African governments take the targets, using them to set priorities, catalyze stakeholders, increase public awareness and motivation, and hold ministries accountable. Over time, the U.N. and the high-income countries’ donor agencies increasingly used the MDGs to help organize their own work in Africa as well. While the MDGs are not the only factor underpinning the improvements since 2000, they have played a huge role.

When U.N. member states turn to the next set of global development goals, they should learn from the MDGs. First, by keeping the list of SDGs relatively short — no more than 10 — the SDGs will be easier to remember and easier to support. Second, all governments, rich and poor, should be accountable for meeting the SDGs as implementers. Third, the SDGs should build on the MDGs. The MDGs helped to cut global extreme poverty by more than half. The SDGs should take on the challenge of ending extreme poverty for good. Finally, the SDGs should mobilize expert groups around the key challenges of sustainable development. A process of expert advice and problem solving is urgently needed on issues such as low-carbon energy, sustainable agriculture, resilient cities, and universal health coverage.

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy declared, “By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.” The MDGs have helped to play that role in the fight against poverty. The SDGs can do the same for the even more complex global challenge of achieving sustainable development.

About the Author1a4a0bc

Prof Jeffrey Sachs is Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals. His book, The Age of Sustainable Development,  published in March 2015 can be found here.

IDB Backs Paraguay Agriculture, Economic Program

2015-06-10-1433961822-3928805-550pxpry_orthographic-svgParaguay will improve the competitiveness of its farm and livestock sector and its economic integration, particularly in the east of the country, with a road upgrade and conservation project backed by a $90 million loan approved by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The beneficiaries will be users of the highway grid, especially small- and medium-size producers, and a population estimated at 522,000 people, of whom 76 percent live in the countryside.

The goal of upgrading and conserving roads is to improve travel conditions, the level of service and safety on motorways that are part of the program in a bid to cut transport costs, travel time and the number of accidents.

The stretches of road included in the project are part of a major logistical corridor that connects areas of production in the east of Paraguay with places that process, transform and market the country’s main export products, and with ports.

“The stretches of road that will be improved have been designed to be resilient to the effects of climate change, particularly heavy rain. Moreover, by improving the corridor with climate change considerations in mind, we will be strengthening the road network of the Oriental Region of Paraguay and consolidating a route that will be more resistant to flooding”, said Ernesto Monter, Project Team Leader of the IDB.

The works that are scheduled include the paving of a stretch of approximately 90 kilometers between San Juan Nepomuceno and Route 6, which is key to national and international integration as it connects the south-central part of eastern Paraguay, where 54% of farm production is concentrated, with the so-called Hidrovía Paraguay-Paraná, where the country’s main grain export ports are grain processing plants are located.

Furthermore, the extension of this corridor from Route 6 to the east will provide access to one of the main agricultural production and processing centers and the ports of the Paraná River.

The program will finance all work necessary to improve and conserve major roads in the east, including upgrading the technical features of existing ones and widening roads and building shoulders to bring them up to standard with other stretches along the corridor.

The project will also finance the construction of ring roads around three populated areas which will reduce heavy vehicle traffic in these communities, reducing noise, pollution and the risk of accidents. The project also includes the implementation of safety features such as pedestrian crosswalks and mechanisms to get cars to slow down.

The $90 million loan is over 23 years with a grace period of seven-and-a-half and an interest rate pegged to the Libor.

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

Article originally published here