Calgary, November 27, 2019 – The federal government must take some bold steps to jump-start real free trade within Canada, according to a new report from the Canada West Foundation.
As Canada enters more free trade agreements abroad that open up major new markets in the Asia-Pacific and Europe, trade at home in Canada remains anything but free, notes the report, Toilet seats, Trucking and Other Trade Tie-ups: A new solution to the old problem of Canadian internal trade.
Interprovincial trade barriers cost businesses, consumers and taxpayers, limit Canada’s global competitiveness, and harm Canadian social and political cohesion.
Yet despite interprovincial “free trade” agreements, and despite recent unilateral efforts by Alberta and Manitoba in particular, progress has been slow. Although any full solution will require provincial and territorial agreement, the report focuses on those steps the federal government can – and should – take. It examines five key reasons for lack of progress: major lack of data and comparative analysis by province and territory; lack of political will; lack of a robust, independent and functional secretariat; lack of knowledge about our own backyard; and too many exceptions under the current Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).
The report then recommends solutions that require bold action by the federal government:
• Create and significantly fund – in amounts similar to other economic organizations – a new, independent Canadian Internal Trade Bureau to collect, analyze and make available the all-important (but still missing) detailed and comparative data on internal trade barriers in Canada;
• Encourage provincial and territorial political will by making that data publicly available, showing in far more detail the specific costs and lost opportunities;
• Make the new Canadian Internal Trade Bureau into a truly robust, independent and functional secretariat;
• Create, fund and help organize domestic trade missions;
• Join Alberta and Manitoba in leading by example, by unilaterally removing a number of exceptions it has under the CFTA.
“The number of internal trade barriers in Canada is astounding. Our recommendations are a way for the federal government to jump-start the process, while building trust and respecting provincial and territorial authority over trade inside their borders.” – Sarah Pittman, policy analyst and report co-author
“Given the current and future international trade environment, Canada can no longer afford the luxury of leaving trade opportunities on the table in the domestic market. This is the one market over which we have control and can effect change to help Canadian businesses. The current snail’s pace of reform is inexcusable.” – Carlo Dade, Director, Trade & Investment Centre and report co-author
“The federal government has created and funds various organizations that are key to the efficient functioning of the Canadian economy – for competition, for infrastructure, for international trade – but does virtually nothing for internal trade, despite its huge economic importance. It is time for the federal government to take unilateral action to build trust and solve some of the key problems, to jump-start – finally – real free trade at home.” – Martha Hall Findlay, President and CEO and report co-author