The uncertainty hanging over cross-border trade between Canada and the United States since the inauguration of President Donald Trump underscores the need for fewer trade barriers between provinces, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Speaking with reporters in Nova Scotia on Tuesday morning, Trudeau highlighted the importance of securing freer trade with countries in Europe and Asia, and the need to work with premiers from across the country to lower barriers to goods moving between provinces.
Opening up international and interprovincial trade is especially important, he said, given the significant barriers being put in place on trade by the American administration.
“You can understand that it’s kind of frustrating, not just for Canadians, but for me to see continued barriers to internal trade in Canada,” Trudeau said.
“If we want to continue to demonstrate that free trade is good for consumers … then we need to do a better job of demonstrating that here in Canada.”
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While Trump has repeatedly blasted the global trading system and put in place tariffs on U.S. imports of aluminum and steel, Trudeau has used pretty much every speaking opportunity on the world stage to tout the benefits of free trade.
Despite that, there continue to be barriers in place on the free movement of goods between Canadian provinces — most notably, alcohol.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in what became known as the “Free the Beer” case, that provinces have the right to restrict the amount of alcohol that Canadians can bring across provincial borders.
The case had been brought by New Brunswick resident Gerard Comeau, who was stopped at the Quebec border in 2012 and fined $292.50 for violating a section of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act that prohibits residents from bringing more than 12 pints of beer into the province if it was purchased somewhere else.
Comeau had 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor in his trunk.
His battle all the way up to the top court garnered widespread support after it went viral online.
However, his bid to “free the beer” failed and the interprovincial barriers remain in place.
Trudeau did not mention the case specifically but said challenges posed by trade with the United States should drive home the need to reduce barriers for those who want to buy Canadian goods made elsewhere in the country and bring them home.
“There’s a tremendous amount of goodwill,” he said of sentiments he has heard so far from premiers.
“We have to make sure at times of challenges to trade with our most significant partner, there are no challenges to trade within Canada.”