Privacy Impact Assessment for Trade Agreements and NAFTA Secretariat

Executive Summary

The Trade Agreements and NAFTA Secretariat (TAS) administers the dispute settlement provisions of Canada’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), agreements with Israel, Chile, Costa Rica, EFTA, Peru, Jordan, Colombia, Panama[1], as well as potential future agreements such as with the European Union, etc.  The Secretariat also provides general administrative support for the implementation and functioning of those agreements, and for the management of their governance committees which includes the administrative organization of Ministerial, Deputy Ministerial and senior official meetings and the coordination of Branch processes for the preparation of briefing materials. In addition, the Secretariat has the responsibility for the coordination of environmental assessments of trade agreements and general research related to negotiation and implementation of FTAs. 

The NAFTA Secretariat, Canadian Section, was previously a stand-alone portfolio partner until the 2010 Budget Implementation Act and relevant Order-in-Council integrated the Secretariat into the Department.  The Secretariat became part of the Trade Policy and Negotiations Branch as of August 27, 2010, at which time its mandate was extended to further trade agreements as described above.

The North American Free Trade Agreement is a formal, comprehensive trade agreement that establishes clear rules for commercial activity between Canada, the United States and Mexico. Since the agreement entered into force on January 1, 1994, NAFTA has systematically eliminated most tariff and non-tariff barriers to free trade and investment between the three NAFTA countries.  NAFTA is overseen by a number of institutions that ensure the proper interpretation and smooth implementation of the Agreement’s provisions.

TAS required the undertaking of a Privacy Impact Assessment for the operation of the Secretariat. The assessment includes the Secretariat’s business practices as well as personal information holdings.

The Scope of this Privacy Impact Assessment is the personal information collected, managed, disclosed, and retained by the Trade Agreement and NAFTA Secretariat only and does not extend to operations of the Privy Council Office, the Department’s Legal Bureau or the office of the Minister.

This assessment did not encounter significant risks to TAS however, the following recommendations mitigate the few risks encountered.

  • Recommendation 1: It is recommended that TAS review and integrate appropriate Privacy Notice Statements into its operations and business processes. 
  • Recommendation 2: It is recommended that TAS develop / update its existing Personal Information Bank (PIB).
  • Recommendation 3: It is recommended that TAS develop and maintain logging information for non-electronic information and audit trails for its electronic database.

While these mitigating strategies do not eliminate the risk entirely, they do reduce it to a manageable level for the Department and its senior management.  Monitoring processes are expected to detect any residual risk before any harm is experienced.  Residual risks will need to be managed in accordance with the executive duties, powers and prerogatives and accountability bestowed upon the Deputy Head.

[1] EFTA, Peru, Jordan, Colombia, Panama require Royal Assent for approval, and are not approved at present.