Although a proponent of free trade, Canada has, until recently, lagged behind its trading partners in negotiating a network of bilateral and regional trade agreements. In 2007, Canada enunciated a “Global Commerce Strategy”, which signalled a re-invigoration of its efforts to engage in bilateral and regional trade negotiations as a means of securing Canada’s growth and prosperity. This strategy continues to be a key plank in the current government’s economic plan to maintain Canada’s comparative global advantage. In addition to the NAFTA, Canada is currently a party to preferential trade agreements with the following countries;
- a. Colombia (in force as of August 15, 2011);
- b. Peru (in force as of August 1, 2009);
- c. the European Free Trade Association (in force as of July 1, 2009);
- d. Costa Rica (in force as of November 1, 2002);
- e. Chile (in force as of July 5, 1997); and
Canada has signed agreements with both Jordan and Colombia, but these agreements are not yet in force. What is more telling than the agreements that are currently executed, are the countries with which Canada has entered into negotiations or exploratory discussions. Canada is currently at various stages of pursuing preferential trading arrangements with Morocco, Korea, the Andean Community, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Dominican Republic, the Central Four American Countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), Singapore, India, Japan and Ukraine. Canada has recently concluded such negotiations with Honduras. Canada is also actively engaged in negotiations for a comprehensive trade agreement with the European Union.
The scope of Canada’s trade agreements and negotiations vary from comprehensive to merely incorporating the substantive obligations of the WTO with laudatory language regarding future negotiations. While all of Canada’s recent trade agreements address such issues as investment, the environment and labour standards, the manner by which these obligations are imposed, differ from agreement to agreement. Negotiations with the European Union are aimed at increasing the scope of Canada’s trade agreements beyond traditional market access issues to include areas such as competition, mutual recognition of professional services, small and medium-sized enterprises, and science and technology. As a result of the larger scope of these negotiations, at the request of the European Union, for the first time, the provinces and territories are direct participants in the negotiations where they relate to areas under their competencies.
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