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New deal to boost provincial trade

Economic development minister Brad Duguid touts benefits to consumers
April 7, 2017
Kristin Rushowy

Consumers can expect more jobs, more choices and cheaper prices under a groundbreaking interprovincial trade agreement that comes into effect July 1.

The deal covers all sectors, even energy, as well as some that don’t exist yet — including the sale of marijuana once the federal government makes it legal, said Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, who chaired the trade talks.

“With technology disruption changing our world, we need trade agreements that apply to not only the sectors that we know of today, but new and evolving sectors,” he told reporters in Toronto.

With all provinces, territories and the federal government onside, Duguid called the Canadian Free Trade Agreement “the most ambitious internal or external free trade agreement that this country has ever had.

“It sends a message to the world that Canada is open for trade and open for investment … (and) fitting that it takes effect July 1 as we are celebrating our 150th anniversary as a country.”

The previous 1995 internal trade deal covered just 11 sectors of the economy but the new deal “applies to everything unless specifically excluded,” Duguid said. “In many ways it turns the old agreement upside down on its head.”

It is expected to boost the country’s economy by $25 billion a year and puts an end to looming troubles that would have seen a Canada-European Union trade deal give EU firms a leg up over those in this country.

Also at Friday’s announcement was Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of economic development, who said “this is a big deal for Canada and this is a big deal for Canadians” that will mean a stronger economy, more jobs and “reduce red tape and barriers for business.”

Small businesses will benefit from “access to a bigger market now — they have the ability now to do business across the country with less barriers, with less impediments, with the regulations being aligned now,” he said.

The freer trade of booze and beer are not included under the deal, with a working group to report back next year. Financial services are also under discussion.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Duguid said.

The deal provides a framework for the provinces and territories to have common standards and regulations, which vary across borders, for anything from the size of coffee cream containers to the time of day truckers can be on the road.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce said it “has long advocated to ensure greater policy harmonization and co-operation in all areas of intergovernmental relations, specifically identifying the need for the removal of interprovincial trade barriers.”

Graham Henderson, chair of the Commerce Board of Directors, called it “significant progress toward the goal of removing restrictive barriers, and will serve to strengthen Ontario’s competitiveness while better enabling all Canadian businesses to grow.”