The House

To compete with China, Canada must step up its innovation game, says Jim Balsillie

The former co-CEO of Research in Motion is praising Canada's handling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, but warns Canada needs to up its innovation game if it wants to compete with China and other heavy-hitting economies.
Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research In Motion, says he's pleased the federal government has defended Canada's interests in recent talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but warns Canada will have to "play shrewd" in any trade talks with China. ((Dave Chidley/Canadian Press))
Listen8:45

The former co-CEO of Research in Motion is praising Canada's handling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, but warns Canada needs to up its innovation game if it wants to compete with China and other heavy-hitting economies.

In an interview with The House, Jim Balsillie said International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne deserves credit for recognizing how "toxic" the original TPP deal was to Canada's interests.

During last month's APEC summit in Vietnam, Canada and its 10 negotiating partners agreed to suspend most of its controversial intellectual property provisions, including those involving patents and copyright protection terms.

By convincing its partners to suspend those provisions, Balsillie said, Canada gave itself the room and flexibility needed to develop globally competitive intellectual property.

"I'm optimistic that this is a deal that's good for Canadian innovators and will allow us to generate the innovation economy that we have all the potential to do," he said.

Canada has some catching up to do. While competitors like the U.S. and Japan hold massive intellectual property stocks, Basillie said Canada has been reduced to an "IP pauper," having failed over the past 15 years to generate its own valuable intellectual property.

With signs the U.S. is gearing up for a fight on intellectual property as part of NAFTA negotiations, Basillie said it's critical Canada maintain its ability to compete.

"If we get locked out of this, I think the gap in our future prosperity is going to erode ever more greatly," he said. "'No deal' is better than a bad deal."

As for the prospect of a free trade deal with China, Balsillie suggested Canada take a page from that country's playbook.

"China did in the last ten years what Canada should have done," Balsillie said, pointing to the growing superpower's position as a world leader in artificial intelligence and clean technology.

"They're formidable and we're going into an engagement with them," Basillie said. "We've got to play shrewd."

The former co-CEO of Research in Motion is praising Canada's handling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, but warns Canada needs to up its innovation game if it wants to compete with China and other heavy-hitting economies. 8:45