Provincial and Federal Ministers Urged to Seal Internal Trade Deal


9 out of 10 small businesses want premiers to make free trade within Canada a priority

TORONTO/CALGARY – CFIB is urging federal and provincial trade ministers to push hard for a new internal trade deal that removes trade barriers within Canada.

As trade ministers begin meetings in Toronto to update Canada’s primary national agreement on the movement of goods, services and labour across the country (the Agreement on Internal Trade, or AIT), small businesses are seeking a new deal that makes internal free trade a priority: according to a new CFIB report released during the meetings, 87 per cent of small business owners said premiers need to reduce trade barriers between provinces.

With provincial leaders having previously committed to establish a new internal trade deal that removes barriers by spring 2016, there has never been a better time to create a national, comprehensive trade agreement. Canada is set to open its arms to new international trade, yet its provinces and territories still maintain artificial barriers that prevent the free movement of goods, services and labour within the country.

“With Canada and the European Union about to ratify a new comprehensive free trade agreement, it’s more important than ever for the provinces to move quickly to remove internal barriers within Canada through the creation of a new trade deal,” said Laura Jones, Executive Vice-President at CFIB.  “As things stand, there may be instances where European companies have better access to Canadian opportunities than a business in a neighbouring province.”

Only nine per cent of small business owners think the existing AIT helps them trade between provinces, and almost one-third (28 per cent) were not aware the AIT existed.

Thirty-one per cent of small business owners moving goods or workers in or out of their own province reported frustration with the often conflicting provincial rules and regulations they face.  For example, a vehicle registration permit in Ontario is not acceptable in Manitoba, while a “wide load” sign posted on a truck travelling on an Alberta highway must be switched at the Saskatchewan border.

“Despite efforts over the years by governments to overcome Canada’s internal trade barriers, there are still too many restrictions from province to province,” said Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice-President of National Affairs at CFIB. “It’s time for provincial trade ministers to take the existing momentum on trading issues to seal a national deal that reflects the 21st century trading needs of Canadian small businesses.”

CFIB’s report recommends a new approach to internal free trade that features vital guiding principles:

· Mutual recognition: where a product or service complies with rules in one province, it will be acceptable to all provinces.

· Negative listing: an assumption that cross-border trade is permitted unless stated otherwise.

· Dispute resolution: a faster and more direct approach to solving disputes.

Read the full report, Transforming Trade: Reforming our Economic Union to Remove Barriers to Internal Trade.

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.