Canada's Hub for International Affairs

John Hancock John Hancock works at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, where he has served as senior policy advisor to the Director-General, representative to the IMF and World Bank, and head of investment issues. He also coordinated the WTO's Aid-for-Trade initiative, and was secretary of the 2006 Task Force on the subject. Prior to the WTO, Mr. Hancock was senior advisor to Canada's trade minister. He has also been a guest lecturer at Cambridge University, IMD, and the University of St Gallen. He holds a PhD in economic history from Cambridge, and has written and spoken frequently on international issues.

The Rise of the “Unfree” World

| June 4, 2014

The problem with a free world is that it’s never cost free. With more liberty comes more disorder. With more opportunity comes more responsibility. With more competition and innovation comes more inequality and upheaval. Thanks to globalization, new technology and the social and sexual revolution, people have never had more freedom to make choices, question authority and breakaway from class, gender and moral constraints. But the flip side of this hyper-free world is less security, less certainty, more chaos and confusion.

Signs of a growing backlash to this “free” world are becoming hard to ignore. Across the European Union—once the poster-child for liberal-democracy’s triumph over nationalism and chauvinism—millions have voted against the Union and for a return to the security of borders and nations. Across the Islamic world, fundamentalism and authoritarianism are on the rise. Across much of Asia, too, an assertive and unapologetic nationalism is on the march. More …

The G20 Can’t Govern Itself, Let Alone the World Economy

| February 21, 2014

You have to admire the confidence of the G20. As finance ministers and central bankers gather in Sydney this weekend for the group’s semi-annual meeting, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey, the host, is aiming for nothing less than a “global growth plan” backed by binding “growth targets.” Unfortunately, that’s the same thing G20 leaders promised in St Petersburg six months ago—in fact, it is the same thing the group has promised at practically every meeting since 2009—yet still the IMF warns that world growth remains lacklustre and international cooperation inadequate. What explains the G20’s serial failure to provide global economic leadership? More …

A Lever to Move the World

| October 19, 2013

After too many false dawns to count, Prime Minister Harper has finally announced his “historic” free trade agreement with the EU. This is one instance where the political spin may actually be understating the achievement. Not only is this the first major transatlantic trade deal in 70 years, giving Canada a significant jump on the United States – now pursuing its own EU strategy – it could turn out to be a crucial lever to help accelerate the pace of global trade talks after two decades of drift. More …

Nelson Mandela: A Hero For Our Time

| June 10, 2013

This weekend, as the superpowers flirted and Syria burned, the world’s attention was focused elsewhere – on a frail, 94-year-old man battling for his life in a Pretoria hospital.

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former president, is easily the most revered and beloved figure alive today. It’s not just his quiet charisma, self-deprecating humour, or compelling life story that explains his extraordinary global appeal. He has come to embody the ideal of a heroic leader in a world woefully short of – but desperate for – heroes. More …

Canada’s Wasted Years

| June 6, 2013

When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives first came to power in 2006, critics warned of their “hidden agenda”. The critics, it turns out, were too generous. Despite the image of tough leadership and ideological conviction, this government has done less to reform, restructure, or re-imagine Canada than any of its modern predecessors – and this at a time of seismic global change. The problem is not a hidden agenda, but no agenda at all. More …

Taking Global Trade for Granted

| May 10, 2013

With so many problems facing Roberto Azevedo, the new Brazilian head of the World Trade Organization,  it’s easy to overlook his biggest one – the WTO’s success. Trade barriers are historically low, trade rules are working, and world trade continues to expand. How to keep countries engaged in the WTO – and rally enthusiasm for freer global trade – when the job seems mostly done?

The GATT, the WTO’s predecessor, was a response to the economic “failures” of the 1930s – roller-coaster exchange rates, beggar-thy-neighbour trade policies, hostile regional blocs – which did so much to fuel the outbreak of the Second World War. Together with the IMF and the World Bank, the multilateral trading system was based on the idea that a durable world peace could only be constructed on the foundations of an open, integrated, and prosperous world economy. More …

Thick as BRICS

| March 27, 2013
BRIC buds

What’s in a name? A great deal, it seems, if you happen to be the BRICS. Until Goldman Sachs coined the acronym back in 2001 to describe emerging Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, these countries had little in common – let alone a common destiny. But they liked the name – and the global attention – so much that it stuck. Now the BRICS leaders are wrapping up their fifth annual summit in Durban, South Africa with the modest goal, according to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, of world leadership. More …

The Mother of All Trade Blocs

| February 15, 2013
The Mother of All Trade Blocs

An earthquake just hit the world trading system. The proposed U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership unveiled this week is not simply another trade bloc but the mother of all trade blocs – an exclusive alliance representing half the world economy purposely aimed at counter-balancing China and other fast-rising trade powers. The split between the West and the rest that has paralyzed the WTO for more than a decade just burst into the open. More …

1930s Redux?

| February 13, 2013
1930s Redux?

History may not repeat itself, but the parallels between the world economy in the 1930s and the world economy today are becoming hard to ignore. Then, as now, the world was in the grip of a severe economic downturn and painfully high unemployment. Then, as now, governments tried to restore growth and exports by devaluing their currencies and carving out trade blocs, risking a chain reaction around the world. Then, as now, the system was rudderless, unstable, and insecure – which persuaded countries to protect their own national interests, even at the expense of the collective good. More …

America’s Farcical Decline

| November 14, 2012
Keeping them honest

Here’s what I would like to know.

How did General John Allen, the highest-ranking U.S. commander in Afghanistan, find time to battle a resurgent Taliban and write 20,000 to 30,000 pages of “flirtatious” emails to a 30-something married mother of three in Florida?

And how did General David Petraeus, the head of the CIA and the most respected general of his generation, manage to juggle “liaising” with the same Florida socialite, conducting an “under the desk” affair with his biographer, and spearheading the global war on terror?

For that matter, how did General Stanley McChrystal, the last discredited supreme U.S. commander in Afghanistan, clear enough time in his schedule to party in Paris with a Rolling Stone reporter while averring that he was “pretty disappointed” with President Barack Obama and even less enamoured with “bite me” Vice-President Joe Biden? More …