Canada’s provinces and the federal government are set to announce a major agreement on internal trade aimed at lowering inter-provincial trade barriers to improve the flow of goods and services across the country.
The new deal is expected to be announced in the coming weeks and would take effect on July 1, Canada’s 150th anniversary.
“Provinces are in the final stages of finalizing the agreement,” Philip Proulx, press secretary for Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, said in a statement. “We are confident that we will be able to do an announcement in the weeks to come.”
Provincial and territorial leaders reached an agreement last July on an internal trade deal that would replace the federal-provincial-territorial Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) which is more than 20 years old.
While no details have been released, a new deal could affect everything from how products are sold between provinces to labour mobility and make it easier for companies to do business across Canada.
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One question yet to be answered is how beer and wine sales will be affected. Last July, Canada’s premiers had announced a working group to look at how to improve trade in beer, wine and spirits across the country.
It’s unclear whether the new announcement will change booze sales between provinces.
“We have been a strong advocate for making progress on interprovincial trade of alcohol, and we are pleased that the premiers committed to work on options to liberalize trade in alcoholic beverages, with a specific timetable and accountability to ministers,” Proulx said.
Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Economic Development Minister, confirmed to Global News that negotiations have been completed and details of the agreement will be released “soon.”
“The new trade deal, the most comprehensive internal trade agreement in Canadian history, eliminates significant barriers to trade,” Duguid said in a statement. “Most notably, it creates a process to harmonize regulations across the provinces, helping reduce costs for those businesses engaging in interprovincial trade.”
Sean Speer, the Munk senior fellow for fiscal policy at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said a new internal trade agreement is long overdue.
“We’re supposed to be a national economy and we should function like one,” he said.
One significant barrier that could be eliminated, according to Speer, relates to how certain professionals are certified.
“If you’re a licensed hairdresser in Ontario you can’t just pick up shop and become a hairdresser in Saskatchewan, you have to go through a laborious process,” he said. “That’s an interprovincial trade barrier preventing someone from pursuing their craft across the country.”
The new agreement will also have to address the procurement of government contracts as companies are generally prohibited from bidding on contracts outside of their province, according to Speer.
The trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), has applied added pressure to this area as companies in Europe could get more favourable access to procurement of government contracts over a Canadian company.
Speer said one reason why Canada has been slow to change trade barriers around alcohol is the federal government’s focus on free trade deals which has allowed international companies greater access to our markets.
“People recognized just how absurd that was,” he said. “As a result of CETAm, it’s going to be easier for European winemakers to sell their products across the Canadian markets than it would be for a British Columbian winemaker to access the Ontario market.”