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Business groups use CETA to advance inter-provincial ‘trade’ agenda

A coalition of seven business groups – including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Council of Chief Executives, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business – is using the recently signed Canada-European Union free trade agreement (CETA) to further their ‘trade’ agenda within this country.

The Globe and Mail reports, “In a letter to Industry Minister James Moore, the groups called on Ottawa and the provinces to extend the same commitments to each other as those made in the tentative Canada-European Union free trade deal, reached in October.”

“Among other flaws, (the business group complain) the AIT has a slow and costly dispute settlement system, and it doesn’t go as far in opening up government purchases, improving regulatory co-operation or allowing workers to move freely between provinces with mutually recognized credentials…”

And they say, “Differing food, fuel and transportation regulations, along with varying trade and professional standards, pose significant barriers to the movement of goods and people across the country. The examples are numerous. Dairy and chicken marketing boards block farmers from freely selling across provincial lines. Quebec bans the mixing of butter or milk into soy- and vegetable oil-based drinks and spreads. As well, provinces have different rules for how much ethanol can be blended into gasoline.”

“The business groups say the free-trade pact with Europe provides a ‘template’ to improve Canada’s weaker intergovernmental Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), which turns 20 in 2015. The provinces, for example, should extend ‘the same commitments to each other as they do to foreign governments’, the letter argues. The letter was delivered just days before the Dec. 12 annual meeting – to be held via conference call – of the Committee on Internal Trade, which is currently chaired by Moore and made up of ministers from the 10 provinces and three territories.”

“Mr. Moore agrees with the principle that trade within Canada shouldn’t be less open than trade with other countries and will ‘engage’ with his provincial and territorial counterparts to lower barriers… While the Western provinces have moved separately to dismantle barriers, Ontario and Quebec have resisted strengthening the AIT.”