Interprovincial trade deal just weeks away?

  • 6 Jul 2016
  • The StarPhoenix
  • GORDON ISFELD
  • Financial Post

Interprovincial trade deal just weeks away?

Despite sticking points, Ottawa hopes for an agreement soon

OTTAWA A long-awaited federal and interprovincial free-trade agreement could finally be reached during talks planned for later this month.

“We want to get the most comprehensive deal as possible. We don’t want to set a date,” said Philip Proulx, a spokesman for Federal Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains.

“We’re hoping to have a deal by the summer.”

A major issue at the July summit is expected to be the awarding of government procurement contracts. Alberta has previously stated it wants to give local companies priority for contracts to help rebuild the northern city of Fort McMurray, which was heavily damaged by wildfires that also disrupted oil production in the area.

But a spokesperson for Alberta’s Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous denied a media report that the procurement issue would be a stumbling block to an eventual internal trade deal.

“Canada’s premiers asked internal trade ministers to work together to finish a new, inclusive, Agreement on Internal Trade for their approval,” Jean-Marc Prevost told the Financial Post in an email Tuesday. “Rather than negotiating through the media, we look forward to discussing our position at the trade minister’s table.”

There has been speculation that Alberta would seek an exemption on procurement contracts to give 20 per cent of those projects to local companies.

The Council of the Federation — representing Ottawa and provincial and territorial governments — will meet in Whitehorse on July 20-22.

“We will keep working to finish the job the premiers asked us to do. Our goal is to get the best deal for Alberta, which includes improving trade across the country and respecting specific needs of each jurisdiction,” Prevost said.

The federal and provincial governments have been working to update the Agreement on Internal Trade, which was signed in 1994 and came into effect a year later. It marked the first coordinated push to broaden and streamline interprovincial and territorial trade rules.

Three provinces — British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan — already have their own free-trade bloc, the New West Partnership, which came into effect in 2013. It has since seen some success in blending professional accreditations, government procurement and labour mobility.

Even so, limited progress has been made among regional governments to continue to bring down barriers to the free flow of goods, services and trades.

Energy initiatives, as well, have proven to be divisive, with opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast and the Energy East plan that would take oil from the West to the Atlantic.

The creation of a national securities regulatory body also remains a work in progress, with B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Yukon still the only signatories.

About prosperitysaskatchewan

Consultant on Saskatchewan's natural resources.

Posted on July 6, 2016, in economic impact, miscellaneous, political. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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