The Free Trade Commission, which consists of cabinet-level representatives from the three member countries, is the central institution of NAFTA. The Commission convenes annually and is chaired successively by each Party. The Commission supervises the implementation and further elaboration of the Agreement and helps to resolve disputes arising from its interpretation. It also oversees the work of the NAFTA Committees, Working Groups and other subsidiary bodies.
Day-to-day management of the NAFTA work program, and of the implementation of the Agreement more broadly, is carried out by NAFTA "Coordinators" - the three senior trade department officials designated by each country.
NAFTA envisages further work towards fulfilling the objectives of the free trade agreement. Under the auspices of NAFTA, over 30 Working Groups, Committees and other subsidiary bodies have been established to facilitate trade and investment and to ensure the effective implementation and administration of NAFTA.
Key areas where this work is being undertaken include trade in goods, rules of origin, customs, agricultural trade and subsidies, standards, government procurement, investment and services, cross-border movement of business people, and alternative dispute resolution.
NAFTA Working Groups and Committees also help to smooth the implementation of the Agreement and provide forums for exploring ways of further liberalizing trade between members, for example the two rounds of accelerated tariff removals completed under the auspices of the Committee on Trade in Goods. NAFTA Working Groups and Committees also provide an apolitical arena for the discussion of issues and, through early dialogue on contentious points, the possible avoidance of disputes.
Canada has made a priority of strengthening the NAFTA work program to enhance the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of NAFTA Working Groups and Committees. You will find the list of Canadian leads and contacts for the Working Groups on the NAFTA website.
Political direction for the NAFTA work program is provided by Ministers through the NAFTA Commission. In addition, NAFTA Deputy Ministers of Trade meet twice annually to provide high-level oversight of the NAFTA Working Groups and Committees.
The NAFTA Secretariat, comprising the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican Sections, was created by NAFTA pursuant to Article 2002. It is responsible for the administration of the dispute settlement provisions of the Agreement. More specifically, the NAFTA Secretariat administers the NAFTA dispute resolution processes under Chapters Fourteen, Nineteen and Twenty of NAFTA and has certain responsibilities related to Chapter Eleven dispute settlement provisions.
Each National Section maintains a court-like registry relating to panel, committee and tribunal proceedings. The NAFTA Secretariat also maintains a trinational website on which updated information on active and completed NAFTA Chapters 19 and 20 disputes is available.
The mandate of the NAFTA Secretariat also includes the provision of assistance to the Commission and support for various non-dispute-related Committees and Working Groups.
The Canadian Section of the NAFTA Secretariat is located at:
NAFTA Secretariat - Canadian Section
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa ON, K1A 0G2
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