Tag Archives: Mexico

Canada Needs to Diversify its Export Strategy

During my last semester as an MBA student, I decided to take a class in International Relations theory. It was certainly a challenging class, especially considering I’d never had a course in political science. There was a steep learning curve in the beginning, but I learn very quickly, so I was able to stay right on track with the material. The last paper I wrote for that course had to do with Canada and NAFTA. I don’t think it’s a good idea to share the whole paper (22+ pages), but I thought I’d include pieces of the conclusion. Any hyperlinks below were added via WordPress’s “recommended links” and weren’t part of the original conclusion. Enjoy!

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At the outset, this paper attempted to shed some light on Canada’s relationship to NAFTA. After the literature review and subsequent analysis, there certainly seems to evidence that Canada made the choice that benefitted the country the most [economically] when it signed onto NAFTA. As the [academic] literature has shown, there will continue to be calls for the three North American countries to further integrate. This certainly may help all of the countries of NAFTA, but it is hard to say that with Mexico still far behind the US and Canada, economically. In time, one would expect that Mexico could become a global economic force, but for now, there is still much work to be done. As it stands now, Canada’s main purpose for being part of NAFTA seems to be because the US is involved. As a result, one would expect that Canada would continue to be part of NAFTA and continue to strengthen its relationship with the US. If NAFTA were just an agreement between Mexico and Canada, there probably would not be a NAFTA.

After analyzing the data, one of the most important takeaways is that Canada needs to continue to diversify its exports strategy. The vast majority of Canadian exports are to the US. In the beginning, this was probably out of convenience. The US market is much larger than Canada’s and it is right there. However, as events like the global financial crisis foreshadow the possibility of similar and bigger events, it is important for countries like Canada to ensure that they are not too invested in the success of one nation. If for instance something were to happen to the US such that it pulls them [the US] down into a recession like Japan saw in the 1990s, Canada would undoubtedly be affected. Although, some may argue that if this were to happen, the whole world would probably be pulled into a recession. However, as Canada demonstrated by its resilience during the financial crisis, it is possible to mitigate the effects of a catastrophic event. This is exactly why Canada needs to continue to seek out free trade agreements with other countries. The more free trade agreements that Canada can enter into, the more insulated it will be against a possible economic collapse in the US.

Do Percentages Matter in a One-Time Decision?

I write a lot about decision-making. It’s clearly something that interests me. As a result, I often find myself thinking about how to make better decisions or how to help people make better decisions. That’s why I’m already up to Part 10 of that series on decision-making (and I’ve got at least 4 more to go). I’m not including today’s post as part of that series, but it serves as an interesting addendum. Meaning, it should at least give you something to think about. So, here we go!

As I said, I often find myself thinking about how to optimize decisions. Often times, when people are trying to make a decision about something in the future, there may be percentages attached to the success of a decision. For example, if you’re the elected leader of a country, you might have to decide about a mission to go in and rescue citizens that are being held hostage. When you’re speaking with your military and security advisors, they may tell you the likelihood of success of the different options you have on the table.

I was going to end the example there and move into my idea, but I think it might make it easier to understand, if I really go into detail on the example.

So, you’re the President of the United States and you’ve got citizens who are being held hostage in Mexico (but not by the government of Mexico). The Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presents a plan of action for rescuing the citizens. After hearing about the chance of success of this plan, you ask the Chief what the chance of success is and he tells you 60%. The other option you have is to continue to pursue a diplomatic solution in tandem with the Mexican government. As the President, what do you do?

So, my wondering is whether that 60% number really matters that much. In fact, I would argue that the only “numbers” that would be useful in this situation are 100%, 0%, or whether the number is greater than 50 or less than 50 (to make sure that this is still three numbers, we could call this last number ‘x’). This sounds silly, right? A mission that has a 80% chance of success would make you more inclined to choose that mission, right? The problem is that 20% of the time, that mission is still going to fail. And my point is that since this is a one-time decision (meaning, it’s astronomically unlikely that the identical situation would occur again), there won’t be iterations such that 80% of the time, the decision to carry out that mission will be successful.

I suppose the argument against this idea is that in a mission that has only a 51% chance of success, there’s a 49% chance of failure and one would presume that there are more factors that might lead to failure with these percentages (or at least a higher chance of these failures coming to fruition).

I realize that this idea is off-the-wall, but I’d be interested to read an article in a math journal that explains why this is wrong (using reasoning beyond what I’ve explained here) or… why it’s right!

Know The Rules: Bench-Clearing Brawl at the World Baseball Classic

A couple of weeks ago saw the start of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). This is only the 3rd WBC, but it’s already proving to be quite enjoyable to watch and from what the players say, quite enjoyable to play. The World Baseball Classic is akin to the World Cup (of soccer/football) where countries compete to qualify for (and play in) a tournament against other countries — in baseball. This past weekend, there was a game between Canada and Mexico that erupted into a fistfight. Now, as a baseball player of many years, I can tell you that never have I been in a fistfight on a baseball field. So how did it happen?

In the WBC, there are 4 pools with 4 teams in each pool. Each team plays each other once and the top 2 teams advance. Pretty simple, right? Well, with mathematics, there’s a high probability that there will be a tie for 2nd (or 1st!) and there will need to be tiebreakers to differentiate between teams. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head. Meaning, if Team A and Team B have the same record at the end of the pool play, the winner of the game between those two would advance to the next round. If we included a Team C in that scenario (all three Teams have the same record), then it gets dicey. Let’s also say that Team A beat Team B, Team B beat Team C, and Team C beat Team A. Our first tiebreaker doesn’t work. So, we’ve got to go to the next tiebreaker — run differential (it’s actually a bit more complicated than that, but we’ll just call it this to make it easier). Basically, run differential is just what it sounds like — the difference between the number of runs you scored and the number of runs that were scored against you.

Okay, now that we’ve got the basic understanding of the rules, we can talk about what happened this past weekend. In Pool D of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Italy beat Mexico in the first game. In the second game, Italy mercy’ed (beat by 10 runs!) Canada. In the third game, Mexico beat the USA. At this point, the standings were: Italy 2-0, Mexico 1-1, Canada 0-1, and USA 0-1. In the fourth game, Canada was to play Mexico. Going into the game, Canada had a -10 run differential because they lost by 10 to Italy. So, if Canada won the game, they knew they were going to have win by a lot (in case that the 2nd tiebreaker came into effect).

Cut to the 9th inning of the game between Canada and the USA. At this point, Canada was winning 9-3. They had the game solidly in hand. The first batter of the inning noticed that there was an opportunity to bunt and make it to first base — so, he did. The 3rd basemen didn’t like this and instructed the pitcher to hit the next batter! Let’s take a step back for a second.

In the way that baseball is normally played (without the imposition of tiebreakers), you wouldn’t a team to try to “run up the score.” Meaning, a player wouldn’t take the advantage that the Canadian player did when he bunted — this is considered ‘bush league.’ So, when the Canadian player bunted to reach first base, the 3rd basemen suggested to the pitcher what would normally be suggested — bean him. Now, I’m not condoning this as a response, but generally, this is how things go in baseball. However, because of the tiebreaker 
rules, Canada wasn’t trying to embarrass Mexico, they were trying to even out their run differential! Herein lies the problem —
the Mexican player didn’t know the rules. After the Mexican player beaned the Canadian player, the benches cleared. When the benches cleared, a fist fight erupted.

This whole kerfuffle could have been prevented if the Mexican players knew the rules. I’m not writing this to place blame on the Mexican players for not knowing the rules. This post is meant to highlight what happens when you don’t know the rules of the game. More than that, we can broaden this to not knowing the rules of play (in business, politics, education, etc.). If you’re operating under the assumption that the rules are X, Y, Z, and the rules are actually Cup, Dog, Queen, then you’re probably going to miss something. More than that, when someone does something relating to Dog, you may get pretty upset expecting that the rules were X.

In short: Know the Rules.