Friday, May 15, 2015 at 2pm

Business News Weekly Roundup: May 15 2015

Global trade question in the US and Canada

Global trade divisions in the US

Divisions over the US’s stance on global trade from within President Obama’s Democratic Party were exposed this week when 44 of the party’s senators voted to stall on discussions for a negotiating tool known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

TPA is said to embody Obama’s free-trade agenda and would allow the US to seal big global trade agreements with the likes of the mooted Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and eventually even the EU.

As reported in the Economist, Obama believes that TPP, in particular, represents an opportunity ‘to write global trading rules on America’s terms’ rather than to let other rising powers, such as China, dictate terms. However, it’s clear that the president’s party contains elements that would rather exercise more caution when it comes to global trade. 

A day after the setback on TPA, the Senate agreed to look at the merits of a range of measures before the negotiating tool is considered, some of which are tangibly protectionist, such as a plan to protect US workers from any ill-effects of increased globalization.

The Canadian economy without its energy trade

In light of a collapse in oil prices, the Huffington Post Canada this week looked at what a Canadian economy might look like without its energy trade.

The worry is that the Canadian economy has become more dependent on its energy exports than it has in the past, after figures released by the Bank of Montreal highlighted that non-energy trade in Canada has been on the slide for a decade.

In March, Canada had an overall trade deficit (the balance between the value of exports and imports in global trade dealings) of US$3.02 billion – a record high in itself. But, energy trade brings a surplus, so removing that from the picture would see the Canadian economy’s trade deficit escalate as high as US$7.3 billion. (Conversely, the fall in oil prices allowed Japan to record its first trade surplus in almost three years last month.)

This reliance on energy trade is sparking debate on how the Canadian economy might diversify and make up this shortfall – with talk of encouraging the growth of a tech and R&D scene, for instance. However, George Mason economics professor, Tyler Cowen, is wary of Canada’s ability to compete in what he deems to be a ‘clustered’ sector where much of the large-scale projects emanate from a precious few centers of activity.

“Maybe the future is Canada will have a knowledge sector doing small-scale things like software design for local projects but not anything like its own Silicon Valley,” Cowen predicted in an interview with the Canadian International Council.

However, an article in the National Post this week concluded that not being home to one of these global clusters was not necessarily a bad thing – highlighting the risky nature of investing too heavily in private sector R&D projects at the expense of supporting other key determinants of growth.

Can a mobile app help usher in peace in the Middle East?

The founder of a mobile app that mimics Tinder believes that his dating product can help break barriers in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

Verona’ aims to hone in on the divide between two peoples by encouraging it’s users to explore what they might have in common. After creating a profile and self-identifying as either Palestinian or Israeli, the mobile app greets you with profiles of the opposite group.

Matthew Nolan says that the blossoming real-life romance between a close Palestinian friend of his and an Israeli provided the inspiration for the mobile app, which takes its name from the city in which William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set.

This may seem odd when you consider that the protagonists in Romeo and Juliet die in tragic circumstances at the end. But, Nolan’s point is that the tale of the ‘star-cross'd lovers’ is about defying social conventions, something he believes can, in time, herald social change. The mobile app’s tagline is therefore ‘world peace, one swipe at a time’ and is said to have attracted around 1,000 users since its launch in March – mostly those of Palestinian or Israeli origin living in the US, but with a few users from within the contentious area of the Middle East itself.  

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Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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