Carbon protectionism

Here’s another unforced error in the Liberal plan:

We will build carbon pricing into our strategy for international trade, endeavouring where possible to ensure that goods from countries that are not pricing carbon will face a tariff reflective of carbon content. Since the next president of the United States, be he a Republican or Democrat, has already committed to pricing carbon, this will likely not impact our largest trading partner.

A “carbon tariff”? Soot-Hawley? This is unnecessary, first of all – it makes no more sense to “level the playing field” with a carbon tariff, on the grounds that other countries do not charge a carbon tax, than it does to impose an “income tariff” because other countries have lower income tax rates. It is also a dangerous precedent, an invitation to retaliation, and a possible violation of WTO rules.

Granted, it would be better if every country did its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And granted, Canada alone can have little impact if they do not: the argument for a carbon tax is simply that we should do our part. But there is no point punishing our consumers for other countries’ sins, nor would it help the planet if we all descended into carbon trade wars.

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