Canada’s inclusive approach to trade
As part of the Government of Canada’s trade diversification strategy, we are pursuing an inclusive approach to trade that seeks to ensure that more Canadians have access to the benefits and opportunities that flow from international trade and investment. This includes those Canadians who have traditionally been under-represented in international trade and investment, including women, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and Indigenous peoples. This means seeking trade policies that are sustainable, transparent and inclusive.
Why is an inclusive approach to trade important?
Trade liberalization has been a significant stimulus to economic growth and prosperity around the world, including in Canada. However, the Government of Canada is aware that criticism of international trade and globalization has led to protectionist movements and a retreat from the international rules-based order, a system that has provided unparalleled prosperity to Canada and others for decades.
In response, we are committed to creating opportunities for more Canadians to engage in and benefit from trade, while at the same time advancing broader economic, social, labour and environmental priorities.
We have also talked to a diverse range of Canadians to hear their views on trade.
Although, overall, Canadians support trade, many have also expressed concerns. Some of these include:
- a perceived lack of transparency in trade agreement negotiations
- the perception that large corporations are accorded special rights and privileges
- a perception of negative or divergent effects of trade agreements on certain segments of the population, particularly members of the middle class and workers in traditional industries
- perceived threats to the environment, health, safety and consumer standards, as well as governments’ right to regulate
Responding to global concerns, as well as to input received from Canadians through our consultations, we continue to work on making trade accessible and beneficial to more Canadians. Our approach reflects and promotes domestic and international policy priorities that support economic growth that benefits everyone and maintains confidence in an open, rules-based trading system.
How we’re making sure our trade and investment agreements benefit everyone
The government’s efforts to date can be divided into three areas:
1) Putting more Canadians at the heart of our trade policy-making agenda
To better align Canadian trade policy priorities with the interests of all Canadians, we are:
- ensuring that our trade policy positions are informed before and during negotiations by thorough consultations and ongoing dialogue, including with traditionally underrepresented groups, such as women, SMEs and Indigenous peoples
- improving transparency throughout negotiation processes and related activities
- communicating the benefits of trade and investment, including through public events in Canada
- enhancing links, where appropriate, between trade and domestic socio-economic policy objectives that support middle-class job creation and growth that benefits everyone
2) Expanding access for more Canadians through inclusive content in trade agreements
To date, we have:
- built on Canada’s past achievements, such as improving labour and environmental protections with innovative provisions. For example:
- the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement protects the ability of Canada to regulate and legislate to achieve legitimate public policy objectives in public health, social services, public education, the environment, safety and privacy
- The newly implemented Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) include Labour and Environment chapters that are subject to dispute settlement.
- advanced new elements in “traditional” chapters of trade agreements, such as those on government procurement, investment and services trade, that would make the benefits of these chapters more accessible to a broad range of Canadians
- developed new chapters, focused on cooperation and information sharing, designed to improve the capacity of and conditions allowing underrepresented groups, in particular women, SMEs and Indigenous peoples, to access and benefit from the opportunities created by trade agreements
- the trade and gender chapters in the modernized Canada-Chile and Canada-Israel free trade agreements establish trade and gender committees to facilitate cooperation activities to help remove barriers to women’s participation in trade, and share experiences in designing programs that encourage women’s participation in national and international economies
- While Canada’s previous FTAs have acknowledged the importance of SMEs to the Canadian economy, the CPTPP (entered into force December 30, 2018) was Canada’s first FTA to include a stand-alone chapter on SMEs. Canada has since concluded 2 additional FTAs that include dedicated SME chapters: the modernized Canada-Israel FTA (entered into force September 1, 2019) and the CUSMA (entered into force July 1, 2020).
- At its first Joint Committee meeting in September 2018, Canada and the European Union (EU) agreed to three Recommendations under the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on Trade and Gender, SMEs, and Trade and Climate Change.
- Canada is advancing its inclusive approach to trade in its ongoing negotiations with the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur, including by advocating for dedicated chapters and provisions on gender, SMEs and Indigenous peoples.
- Canada, New Zealand and Chile launched the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG) at APEC in 2018, which reflects a shared commitment to achieving economic growth while advancing broader social and environmental objectives and ensuring that the benefits of trade are widely shared. ITAG has developed an evergreen work programme that includes Canadian priorities, such as the signing of the Global Trade and Gender Arrangement.
3) Engaging with international partners to promote and advance trade initiatives
We are working with our international partners:
- in international economic forums, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the G20, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, on enhanced bilateral and multilateral engagement and participation
- For instance, over 120 WTO members and observers at the organization’s December 2017 Buenos Aires ministerial conference endorsed the Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment, which Canada championed; in March 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland, Canada hosted the first seminar organized under the declaration, focusing on gender-disaggregated data and gender-based analysis. Six seminars on key themes identified in the declaration took place to date, and 20 trade policy reviews at the WTO have directly raised issues around trade and gender.
- Building on the Declaration, signatories of the Declaration agreed to establish an “Informal Working Group on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment” in order to work together at the WTO to remove barriers for women’s participation in trade. The work plan will take into account the increased relevance of advancing work at the WTO on gender responsive and inclusive trade policies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.