| Apr 20, 2006

Feature Article - April 20, 2006

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Feature Article - April 20, 2006

Godfrey native to make case for CommonwealthFree Trade


Brent Cameron is what you might call a once and future native of Cole Lake (near Godfrey). He grew up on the old Peters farm, and attended Hinchinbrooke Public School before moving out west. A few years ago he returned to the Yarker area and began working as a researcher at Queen’s University. Later this summer he will be taking over the family farm at Cole Lake , returning to the home of his youth with his own young family.

Prior to that, however, he will be travelling to London , England to meet with the Royal Commonwealth Society and promote some of the ideas encapsulated in his recent book, The Case for Commonwealth Free Trade.


Brent Cameron has been interested in international politics and economics for many years, and was involved in Provincial politics in the 1990’s as a staff member for Conservative MPP Harry Danford (Hastings/Peterborough). Although he returned to Queen’s to work in the medical research department six years ago, he has never lost interest in politics.

Brent comes by his interest in the British Commonwealth honestly, as the descendent from an Eastern Ontario Loyalist family that arrived in Cole Lake in the 1840’s.

A few years ago, he began to develop the idea of a Commonwealth Free Trade Zone, that would provide access for the 1.8 billion people who live in Commonwealth countries around the world to each others’ markets.

“The attributes that commonwealth countries share, a common language and the common law, translate into a 15% savings in trading with each other to begin with. When you consider the existing links, through the 20 or so organisations that members of the Commonwealth are a part of, there are some obvious advantages to forming a trading alliance,” Cameron said in an interview with the News this week.

Cameron argues that respect for the sovereignty of the member states would have to be built into an agreement.

Canada could benefit greatly from a commonwealth trade zone, Cameron says, because of the existing North American Free Trade Alliance (NAFTA) with the United States and Mexico . Capital from Commonwealth nations would flow into Canada for access to the US market and likewise for US investment in Canada .

“If the commonwealth was like the 401, we would be the on ramp for the US , and the off ramp for the other Commonwealth countries.”

The aggregate gross domestic product of commonwealth nations is about 10 trillion dollars, but Cameron sees that figure rising in the next few years, perhaps markedly, as huge developing nations such as Pakistan and India maintain their fast pace of economic growth.

An agreement on the scale that “The Case for Commonwealth FreeTtrade” envisions would take years to bring about, but for now Brent Cameron’s book is merely trying to bring the concept out of the background where it has been lurking for over 40 years.

“John Diefenbaker tried to negotiate a free trade deal in the very early 60’s, but at that point the British Empire was still in people’s minds, and the concept did not go very far. Nowadays most Commonwealth countries are more likely concerned about the US as an Empire builder than England ,” Cameron surmises.

Although Brent Cameron comes, politically, from a Conservative party background (he is connected to a consulting group headed by former Federal Cabinet Minister Sinclair Stevens) the idea of a Commonweatlh Free Trade zone is very much a “multi-partisan” concept.

For a country like Canada , which conducts the vast majority of its trade with one country, diversification is something people of all political stripes can relate to.

“I don’t see us decreasing our trade with the United States ,” Brent Cameron said, “but just increasing our overall trade through new initiatives.”

While Brent Cameron isn’t about to give up his “day job” at Queens anytime soon, his ideas have been having an effect in far-flung corners of the world, in places like London, Johannesburgh, Delhi, and Wellington.

“Many people think that the only people who have an impact are those that come from an urban background, but that is not true,” said Brent Cameron.

While Brent Cameron may be one of the early advocates of a process that could change the economic direction of Canada for decades, he remains a Peters from Godfrey, and intends to raise his children just as he was raised, in a rural Eastern Ontario setting.

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