International Trade Agreements and Indigenous Peoples: The Canadian Approach

As part of our inclusive approach to trade, Canada is actively advancing programs and policies to enhance the ability of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous businesses to benefit from the opportunities created by international trade and investment.

Canada is applying a two-track approach to advance the interests of Indigenous peoples through free trade agreements by:

1. Reservations and Exceptions

Canada’s Traditional Chapter-specific Reservations, Exceptions, and Exclusions

Canada’s obligations to Indigenous peoples under the Canadian Constitution cannot be superseded or undermined by commitments under a free trade agreement (FTA). These legal obligations include those recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and those set out in self-government agreements.  Further, Canada retains policy flexibility to create or maintain programs or set-asides that seek to advance the interests of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous-owned businesses, including in the areas of services, investment, environment, government procurement and state-owned enterprises.

Advancing an Indigenous Peoples Rights General Exception

In addition to Canada’s traditional approach of including chapter-specific reservations and exceptions related to Indigenous peoples and Indigenous businesses, the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) includes a general exception related to the rights of Indigenous peoples. A first for Canada’s FTAs, this dedicated Indigenous general exception (IGE) provides greater certainty that the Government of Canada can adopt or maintain measures necessary to fulfil its legal obligations to Indigenous peoples, including Aboriginal rights as recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and those rights set out in self-government agreements. Canada has engaged closely with Indigenous peoples, Indigenous organizations, and business associations through Global Affairs Canada’s trade-focused Indigenous Working Group (IWG) on the development of the IGE.

The IGE co-exists with and complements Canada’s other chapter-specific reservations, exceptions, exclusions, and other provisions dedicated to advancing the trade related interests of Indigenous peoples throughout CUSMA.

2. Increasing International Trade and Investment Opportunities

Canada is also actively seeking provisions in its FTAs to increase the opportunities for Indigenous peoples to benefit from trade and investment.   

The Government of Canada is engaging in ongoing dialogue with Indigenous peoples on a wide range of trade policy issues through the IWG. Together, Canada and the IWG have developed various provisions on trade and Indigenous peoples for possible inclusion in Canada’s FTAs, where appropriate.

These include provisions to:

Engaging with Indigenous Peoples on Canada’s International Trade Policy Priorities

Global Affairs Canada established the trade-focused IWG in September 2017.

Participation in the IWG is drawn from:

Since its inception, officials have actively engaged with the members of the IWG through ongoing dialogue on a wide range of trade and investment issues that the IWG has identified as important for Indigenous peoples in Canada. This, in turn, has informed Canada’s negotiating positions in recent and ongoing international trade negotiations, including CUSMA, Mercosur and Pacific Alliance.

Officials from Global Affairs Canada continue to engage with Indigenous peoples through the IWG on a regular basis, keeping them apprised of Canada’s FTA negotiations and other trade initiatives of interest.

Canada’s Existing FTAs: Key International Trade and Investment Resources for Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Businesses

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement

Indigenous-specific provisions appear in the:

Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

Indigenous-specific provisions appear in the:

Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

Indigenous-specific provisions appear in the:

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