Following the lead of the U.S. administration that has already published its request for public comments and scheduled a hearing for June 27, the Trudeau government this weekend announced that is asking for interested parties to submit their views on the scope of the renegotiation and modernization of the existing North American Free Trade Agreement.
“The Government of Canada is committed to strengthening and deepening relationships with its North American partners. As the Government prepares for these discussions, the Government is seeking views on key areas in NAFTA that could be clarified or updated, and on any new areas that should form part of a modernized agreement,” the Global Affairs department advised in a notice published last Friday in the Canada Gazette.
“I invite all Canadians to provide their views on how we can maximize the benefits of a modernized NAFTA,” said Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland in a statement. “We are committed to hearing directly from Canadians on their priorities, and we will ensure that Canadians continue to have the opportunity to provide their input as we engage with our NAFTA partners.”
Echoing many of the same sentiments expressed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s notification to Congress, the federal government’s notice says that as the trade pact is over 23 years old, “there are many clarifications and technical improvements that could be made in all trade areas covered by NAFTA, such as labour, the environment or culture.” It likewise also claims that a revised NAFTA would “benefit from the inclusion of new trade areas, such as electronic commerce, that are not currently covered, to ensure the Agreement is aligned with today’s economic realities.”
Without providing any specific guidance, Global Affairs Canada indicates that focus of the stakeholder consultations will be “in hearing about what aspects or elements of NAFTA have worked well for Canadians and should remain as is and where changes or improvements could be desirable.”
Areas under consideration may include the following: National Treatment and Market Access for Goods (e.g., Trade and Investment in the Automotive Sector and Textile and Apparel Goods); Rules of Origin; Customs Procedures; Energy and Basic Petrochemicals; Agriculture and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures; Emergency Action; Standards-Related Measures; Government Procurement; Investment; Cross-Border Trade in Services; Telecommunications; Financial Services; Competition Policy, Monopolies and State Enterprises; Temporary Entry for Business Persons; Intellectual Property; Review and Dispute; Settlement in Antidumping/Countervailing Duty Matters; Institutional Arrangements and Dispute Settlement Procedures.
In addition to seeking input on how to change existing chapters of the agreement, the government is also soliciting ideas as it considers how best to establish rules for new areas such as transparency, anti-corruption, e-commerce, trade facilitation, development of small and medium-sized enterprises vis-à-vis free trade, and regulatory coherence.
To facilitate this process, Global Affairs Canada has established a web portal with an online submission form. Submissions can also be made until July 18 by e-mail or by traditional correspondence to the following address:
Global Affairs Canada
Trade Negotiations – North America (TNP)
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2