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Harper, provincial premiers push new internal ‘free trade’ agreement

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, British Columbia premier Christy Clark and Alberta premier Dave Hancock signed a letter yesterday urging other provincial premiers to commit to a renegotiation of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) when they all meet this August in Charlottetown. Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil and Prince Edward Island premier Robert Ghiz have already expressed their support for this initiative. And the Harper government has recently been pushing for the same thing.

Wall is leading the charge for this new ‘free trade’ agreement among Canadian provinces.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Under Mr. Wall’s initiative, provinces would have to negotiate what should not be included in the agreement.” The AIT is currently framed on the premise of sectors needing to be negotiated in. “He also wants stronger enforcement powers so that a business bidding for a contract that feels it was treated unfairly by a government has some recourse.”

The newspaper notes, “Ontario, however, is not as enthusiastic – but happy to discuss it.”

“The push by the western premiers comes as federal Industry Minister James Moore is calling for trade barriers between provinces to be dismantled. Last month, he began his tour of six major Canadian cities during which he has been trying to engage his provincial colleagues, businesses and consumers in supporting a massive change to the AIT.”

An earlier article in the Globe and Mail reported, “One of the drawbacks of existing rules on interprovincial trade barriers is what critics have called a toothless dispute settlement mechanism. Mr. Moore said he’d like to see a revised deal include a binding means of settling disagreements between provinces.”

Dozens of groups, including the Council of Canadians, have consistently argued there should be no fines in any dispute under the Agreement on Internal Trade, least of all in disputes brought by investors.

The provincial premiers will discuss a new Agreement on Internal Trade at the Council of the Federation meeting this August 26-30. Just prior to that meeting, federal Industry minister James Moore will meet with his provincial counterparts in Manitoba to advance this agenda.

Further reading
Harper seeks internal ‘trade’ deal with binding dispute settlement provision
British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan pursue an expanded TILMA
EU questions ‘interprovincial trade barriers’
Local garbage contract goes to multinational firm because of trade deal
TILMA legislation flouts rule of law, democracy: Shrybman