Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Trade barrier persist inside Canada

There are more trade barriers inside Canada than with many foreign countries, according to a Senate committee report.

Agriculture comes off as one of the chief culprits in a report by the Senate banking committee.

The report comes just before a federal-provincial meeting that might result in a new agreement. The Globe and Mail reports, however, that Alberta is objecting to one clause that opens government contracts to competition from companies in other provinces.

The food industry trade barriers include restrictions on sales of Canadian wine, regulations for maple syrup, brie cheese, beer bottle sizes, the size of dairy containers and organic food standards.

It notes that Quebec's processors who make unpasteurized cheeses can't market them in other provinces. Sorry, Senators, but I think that's a good idea. The risks are too significant.

Ironically, the report does not feature the newest and stiffest trade barrier – a ban on marketing live chickens across the Ontario and Quebec border.

The report, Tear Down These Walls, is sprinkled with examples throughout its 60 pages.

It calls for immediate federal action on some issues, such as labour mobility and setting up a cross-Canada transportation and communications corridor.

“Some of the recently negotiated international trade agreements would make it easier for international businesses to trade with Canada than it currently is for Canadian businesses in one province/territory to trade with other provinces/territories,” the committee report says.

Here are some things the report says:
Governments’ first priority must be finalizing the negotiations for a renewed – and effective – Agreement on Internal Trade. 
In light of Canada’s upcoming 150th anniversary, it would be entirely appropriate to celebrate this momentous occasion by announcing a renewed Agreement on Internal Trade – a future-oriented agreement – that would help to lay the groundwork for growth and prosperity throughout Canada. 
The committee is convinced that such an agreement must include a negative list approach, mutual recognition, regulatory harmonization, an effective dispute-resolution mechanism, improved consideration of trade in services and a permanent federal co-chair for the Committee on Internal Trade.
The committee cannot underscore enough how critical it is for the country’s governments to do what is in the best interests of Canada, and complete the negotiations for the renewed agreement as soon as possible. 
An announcement about success in this regard is long overdue given the agreement’s importance in helping to ensure that the vision of the Fathers of Confederation is realized. (Negotiators are meeting in Toronto this week.)
In fact, if our federal and provincial/territorial governments fail to conclude a renewed Agreement on Internal Trade by July 1st, 2017, or if a renewed agreement does not contain the types of provisions that will ensure a prosperous future, the federal government must act expeditiously and make a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada with respect to the applicability of section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867
While the committee feels that this course of action would be necessary, it would much prefer the political course of action; a timely and effective renewed agreement.