On June 3, 21017, the Government of Canada posted on the Global Affairs website a Notice inviting Canadian businesses to engage in “online consultations” relating to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). Canadian businesses should look at this as an opportunity to ask for market access (goods, services, financial services, investment, government procurement), ask for improvements to NAFTA rules, ask for job creation opportunities, ask for reductions in cross-border bureaucratic tape (e.g., unfavourable regulations), etc. Small and medium sized enterprises, in addition to large businesses, should take advantage of a golden opportunity to communicate with Canada’s NAFTA negotiating team.
Global Affairs Canada has provided a link to a portal to submit views. Don’t be confused by the words used by Global Affairs. The negotiators do not need your views. The negotiators need to know what you need them to ask for so that you may succeed (sell more, export more, make more money and hire more employees). They need to know where you are having problems accessing the United States (and Mexican) market. They want to know where you have had problems with the NAFTA rules of origin, whether the goods were being exported from Canada into the United States or Mexico or imported into Canada from the United States or Mexico. They want to know what U.S. regulations are preventing you from accessing the U.S. goods and services and procurement markets. They want to know where you have had difficulties from a labour mobility perspective.
Global Affairs Canada also needs to know what Canadian laws really help your business and where you would not like concessions made during the NAFTA renegotiation process. The U.S. has a similar consultation process and the United States negotiators are preparing their long list of asks. For example, we already know that the U.S. negotiators are going to seek changes to Canada’s supply management regime for dairy, poultry and eggs. Shouldn’t Canadian negotiators make a similar list of U.S. protectionist policies that we would like to see removed or lessened?
Similarly, the Canadian negotiators need to know about your NAFTA supply chains. Just because you have been audited by the Canada Revenue Agency or undergone a verification by the Canada Border Services Agency or filed applications with Health Canada does not mean that the Canadian negotiators have that information. Do not assume they know. Participate in the consultation process so that you actively take steps to ensure they have information. You do not want your established, working supply chain disrupted by changes to NAFTA.
The Notice asks “Are there areas of the agreement that could be clarified? Are there parts that should be updated? Are there any new sections that should be part of a modernized agreement?” What this means is that everything is on the table. Almost every chapter can be modernized to reflect current market conditions (NAFTA was negotiated over 20 years ago and things have changed). For example, the following Chapters of NAFTA may be improved and new Chapters added to NAFTA:
- small & medium size businesses;
- digital economy;
- rules of origin;
- intellectual property;
- services commitments;
- government procurement commitments;
- labour mobility;
- dispute settlement; and
Hire a trade lawyer or trade consultant to assist you in the preparation of your submission to Global Affairs Canada. There may be better ways to present your “asks”.
For more information, please contact Cyndee Todgham Cherniak at 416-307-4168 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Heather Innes at 416-355-1234 (email@example.com). Also, please look at the LexSage website as we have posted other articles about NAFTA.