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John Curtis

Adjunct Professor at Queen's University and Chair of Statistics Canada's Advisory Committee on International Trade Statistics

John Curtis is currently an Adjunct Professor at Queen's University and Chair of Statistics Canada's Advisory Committee on International Trade Statistics. He also teaches international economic policy at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University and is advising the C.D. Howe Institute on a research agenda for its new international trade and investment program. Following his retirement from the Government of Canada, he was as well a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. In the Public Service of Canada for 35 years, Dr. Curtis was the founding Chief Economist of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Before that he served in a number of economic policy positions in several departments. His focus throughout his career has been on all aspects of international trade, most recently the relationship of trade to the domestic economy, particularly in the field of intellectual property, innovation, and competitiveness. With a strong interest in Asia over the years, he spent two years with the International Monetary Fund on Asian economic matters and some years later played a major role in the development of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, serving as the founding Chair of its Economic Committee. He was also involved in the work of the OECD Trade Committee and in the Government of Canada's private sector consultation process on trade policy. Dr. Curtis has an undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia and holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

Most Recent Posts

Curtis: What regional and/or international challenges are most pressing for the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, respectively?

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February 21, 2014

One of the most pressing problems—perhaps the most important from my perspective as an economist—is how to catch up to the European Union and emerging Asian market in terms of improved competitiveness, productivity, and skills. NAFTA has been comatose for well over a decade with the rest-of-the-world catching up or moving ahead of us. Some […]

Curtis: Are global talks on climate change useful?

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November 19, 2013

Yes, like all Summits, they focus world-wide (particularly politicians) attention on the issue – and when the public tide of attention at some stage in the future is lined up as well (ie. “political will”), substantive progress will be made…

Curtis: Should building ties in Latin America be a policy priority for Canada?

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March 11, 2013

No, but it should continue to be an on-going Canadian foreign policy activity, much as Africa, much of Asia, and Central/Europe is. Canadian private sector involvement will likely remain more evident than government activity with respect to most regions of Latin America – where both sectors will and should be active across most sectors are […]

Curtis: Does the pope still matter in international relations?

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March 4, 2013

No, the Pope and the Papacy more generally have a declining role in today’s society, even in countries and /or regions where Roman Catholicism is predominant. This fact is due, I would suggest, to the slow decline of institutions – be they governmental, religious, or even the family – world-wide (and the accompanying rise of […]

Curtis: Is American energy independence a threat to the Canadian economy?

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January 25, 2013

The United States will never be “independent” with respect to energy – most of New England through to New York City is, and will remain, dependent on Quebec Hydro, for example. Yet the fact that with respect to oil and gas the U.S. will possibly reach self-sufficiency will have an enormous impact on Canada, particularly […]

Curtis: What Should Canada’s top foreign policy priority be in 2013?

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January 7, 2013

Canada’s top foreign policy for the current year will be to complete, and begin implementing, a number of international trade and economic cooperation agreements that have been underway for some time. Many such agreements have been analyzed, discussed, consulted on, and advanced over the past six years; this is the year to conclude as many […]

Curtis: Who faces greater challenges to reform, the Xi-Li or the Obama administration?

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November 12, 2012

Xi-Li would appear to have greater challenges: more domestic growth, improve the social security net, climate change requirements, unbalanced demographics (male-female, aging), accommodation of minorities, reform of SOEs, regional foreign policy issues, global foreign policy (especially vis-a-vis the other superpower, the U.S.), never mind maintaining balance with the many factions of the CCP. President Obama, […]

Curtis: Do separatist movements around the world have anything to learn from the PQ?

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September 6, 2012

Yes; the PQ has been a well-organized, umbrella, and relatively moderate political organization since its founding in the late 1960s, attracting as candidates and spokespersons generally highly intelligent persons from its core constituencies – academe, unions, social groups, and small business, all within the mainstream of Quebec society. The overall (but unique) overall context of […]

Curtis: Should Canada cut ties with the monarchy and become a republic?

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June 11, 2012

Yes, in due course as the formal ties to the monarchy (Queen of Canada, etc.) become less-and-less based in reality; recognizing the British monarch as Head of the Commonwealth should and could be maintained as there’s no reality test in that case. Having a foreign Head of State confuses both most Canadians and certainly most […]

Curtis: Are the Quebec riots a manifestation of the global Occupy movement?

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June 4, 2012

Although the statement is not entirely accurate — they are street demonstrations rather than generalized riots — the Quebec phenomenon is part of the global reaction against unbridled deregulation, low taxes, rising income inequality, high youth unemployment in particular, and slow growth/austerity that the political system to date has not been able to effectively respond […]

Curtis: What will be the impact of the $1.1 billion cut to National Defence?

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April 2, 2012

Very little; capital expenditures will be slowed a little, including perhaps more careful assessment of planned major procurement, and operational expenses (HQ overhead, excessive and duplicative bureaucracies, too many bases, etc.) will be now have to be reviewed. Overall, it might signal a turn in the Government’s tilt to over-militarization of our foreign policy in […]

Curtis: Should the World Bank consider non-Americans for its next president?

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March 19, 2012

No, the World Bank at this stage of its existence, and the need to preserve some element of normalcy in this US presidential year, should continue to have a US citizen as its president; the US, both through public—and increasingly private—donors remains the world’s largest contributor to the Bank’s work directly and indirectly through partnerships […]

Curtis: Should Canadian corporations be permitted to do business with corrupt and repressive regimes?

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March 12, 2012

Canadian business, whether “permitted” or not, should not do business with corrupt regimes (governments and responsible private sector interests are working in different ways and through different mechanisms to stamp out corruption in every corner of the world), but doing business with so-called repressive regimes is a different matter. There is no definition of repression, […]

Curtis: How should Canada respond to the rising violence in Syria?

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February 27, 2012

Canada has no role, or very little role, in the Middle East including in Syria. We can posture, make declarations, etc. which will appeal to our domestic audience but realistically we will look silly and moralistic as Dean Acheson said about us some 60 years ago. On the other hand, if serious international initiatives are […]

Curtis: Should religion be a tool of Canadian foreign policy?

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February 19, 2012

On no account should religion be an instrument of Canadian foreign policy. While the values that derive from all the organized religions in Canada should form part of our approach to our relations with other countries (equality, transparency, honesty, accomodation to others’ views, etc.), institutional advocacy on behalf of any religion should not be part […]

Curtis: Is the rise of state capitalism a threat to economies like Canada’s?

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February 13, 2012

On balance, state capitalism is no threat to western economies such as Canada’s.It varies from our model, and indeed the European model to some extent, but as long as basic principles and values are respected and followed in all the economies engaged in international trade, investment, and finance—respect for national regulations, transparency, the rule of […]

Curtis: Is the rise of state capitalism a threat to economies like Canada’s?

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February 13, 2012

On balance, state capitalism is no threat to western economies such as Canada’s.It varies from our model, and indeed the European model to some extent, but as long as basic principles and values are respected and followed in all the economies engaged in international trade, investment, and finance—respect for national regulations, transparency, the rule of […]

Curtis: Canada should “make it a national priority to ensure we have the capacity to export our energy products beyond the US, and specifically to Asia.” Agree?

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February 6, 2012

Yes, this is one of many priorities which together should involve massive investment by both government and the private sector in all aspects of infrastructure—roads, railways, pipelines, highways, education, and health…Canada has fallen behind its European, emerging economy, and even USA competitors in investment…our major cities, particularly Toronto, which forty years ago were the envy/model […]

Curtis: Canada should “make it a national priority to ensure we have the capacity to export our energy products beyond the US, and specifically to Asia.” Agree?

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February 6, 2012

Yes, this is one of many priorities which together should involve massive investment by both government and the private sector in all aspects of infrastructure—roads, railways, pipelines, highways, education, and health…Canada has fallen behind its European, emerging economy, and even USA competitors in investment…our major cities, particularly Toronto, which forty years ago were the envy/model […]

Curtis: Is North America dead?

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January 30, 2012

North America is alive and well. Even without including Mexico, part of North America only through a major trade agreement and 12 million-person human migration to the USA, Canada and the United States together and separately represent the world’s most integrated manufacturing sector, the world’s leader in research and development in new sectors such as […]

Curtis: Which Republican candidate would be best for Canada?

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January 16, 2012

Since there is only one serious candidate in the Republican contest for the nomination, Governor Mitt Romney would have to be identified as the candidate who would be “best” for Canada. Although there is a lot of mythology about whether a Democratic or Republican President is better for Canada, post-War history (ie. post-FDR) indicates that […]

Curtis: What is Canada’s biggest international opportunity in 2012?

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January 9, 2012

Canada’s major international opportunity in 2012 is to restructure its foreign policy capabilty within ever-tighter financial constraints. This initiative would involve being first in the world to shape its policy and operational delivery mechanisms to accomodate the early 21st century, rather than trying to do “more with less” doing things in the old way. Under […]

Curtis: What is the best international affairs book of 2011?

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December 5, 2011

The Kissinger book on China must be among the best this year; since the 21st century, or at least the first part of it, will be shaped and defined by the US-China relationship in all aspects, this book analyzes the beginning of this relationship in the modern era.

Curtis: How can the G20 help save the euro zone?

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November 7, 2011

This is largely an intra-European problem, and thus will have to be sorted out primarily by the Franco-German “alliance” with help from the other, smaller EU members.  The G20 have, and should, focus on the systemic implications of the current problems, through moral suasion and lending where it’s possible (viz. China) and in national/systemic interests […]

Curtis: Why commemorate the War of 1812?

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October 24, 2011

As a continuing element of highlighting Canadian history, be it of people (eg. the Famous Five), legislative events (the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights or the Trudeau Charter), or military matters (such as the War of 1812), this celebratory noting of the War is fine. None of these commemorations should glorify any one theme (the military, […]

Curtis: Are diplomats needed in the digital age?

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October 17, 2011

No, diplomats are not needed in this digital age; a much smaller group of diplomatic experts is needed to carry out operational matters such as consular services and specific tasks such as the Afghanistan mission in the Canadian context. The digital age means that governments have lost their power over information…the central function of what […]

Curtis: Should Canada treat its intellectual property as a national asset?

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October 10, 2011

Yes, Canada should treat its intellectual property as both a national and an international asset in the interest of improving human health, achievement, and prosperity world-wide. A well-modulated intellectual property framework of policies, laws, regulations, and enforcement provisions are a necessary, although not sufficient, element of innovation and creativity to keep an economy such as […]

Curtis: Is Jean Monnet’s dream for Europe ending in nightmare?

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October 3, 2011

On the contrary, Jean Monnet’s dream of a united Europe, both politically and economically, is taking slowly taking shape….one of the great developments, if not the greatest together with the gradual equality of women world-wide, in the late 20th century. There are, were, and will be speed-bumps along the way…we’re going through that now…but the […]

Curtis: If 9/11 defined the last decade, will the Arab Spring define the next?

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September 11, 2011

Yes, if we take a myopic “western” view. We in the West, especially since the 1890s, have defined each decade (“the gay ’90s for example); while 9/11 had world-wide significance as signalling that the world’s only superpower was itself vulnerable and no longer (if ever) exceptional, the Arab Spring could be regional or perhaps more….we […]

An interview with John Curtis

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September 8, 2011

Do governments have reason to be losing confidence in corporations, given the fact that U.S. public corporations are estimated to be sitting on over US$1 trillion? My instinct is to say no, that governments can express disappointment in the private sector, and can say, “We’ve done our share, now you belly up to the bar.” […]

Curtis: What societal problems have the London riots exposed?

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August 14, 2011

The London and now more widespread riots in England have displayed a major problem in the western world over the past thirty years or so…the slow disappearance of low-skill jobs in our society resulting in no hope for those in that category, declining relative income (however defined) compared to others in the society in which […]

Curtis: What’s the ultimate objective of Harper’s softer stance on China?

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July 25, 2011

The focus of the Harper Government has always been economic; the positive spin concerning the relative strength of our economy has got the Gov’t re-elected twice. The earlier so-called “hard-stance” towards China was based on two factors which overwelmed the economic….one was coming from opposition when pro-Taiwan, more religious themes tended to dominate party thinking; […]