Trade and Indigenous peoples summary
One of Canada’s objectives for the Canada-United States-Mexico- Agreement (CUSMA) was to better reflect the interests of Indigenous peoples in international trade. To that end, the Government of Canada undertook extensive engagement with Indigenous leaders and representatives, businesses and policy experts to better understand their trade interests and to seek input on priorities for the negotiations. In particular, an Indigenous Working Group was established to further the dialogue between the government and Indigenous peoples, share ideas and work collaboratively on solutions. The primary outcome of this group’s effort was the development of proposed text on trade and Indigenous peoples.
In CUSMA, Canada was successful in achieving priority outcomes with respect to Indigenous peoples, in line with the government’s efforts to advance Indigenous rights, prosperity and sustainable development in Canada and around the world. Canada’s obligations to Indigenous peoples under the Canadian Constitution cannot be superseded or undermined by commitments under a free trade agreement (FTA). To ensure clarity on that, the government has secured a general exception related to the rights of Indigenous peoples. This exception is a demonstration of the commitment by all three governments to ensure that FTA obligations do not interfere with a country’s legal obligations toward Indigenous peoples.
As in all of Canada’s FTAs, the government has also retained the policy flexibility necessary to provide preferential treatment to Indigenous peoples and Indigenous-owned businesses, including in the areas of services, investment, environment, state-owned enterprises and government procurement. There are also important outcomes that reflect the important role of Indigenous peoples regarding the environment, including in the conservation of biodiversity. The textile and apparel goods chapter also expands on an existing NAFTA provision to provide a special, facilitative pathway to origin for Indigenous textile and apparel goods.
Technical summary of negotiated outcomes: Trade and Indigenous peoples
- The agreement contains language in the preamble recognizing the importance of increased engagement by Indigenous peoples in trade and investment.
- A first for Canada’s FTAs, CUSMA incorporates a general exception that clearly confirms that the government can adopt or maintain measures it deems necessary to fulfill its legal obligations to Indigenous peoples. The provision also specifically references Aboriginal rights as recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as those set out in self-government agreements.
- CUSMA maintains Canada’s traditional reservations, exceptions and exclusions in the areas of services and investment, environment and state-owned enterprises.
- Cross-border trade in services and investment: preserves the right to adopt or maintain measures conferring rights or privileges to Indigenous peoples;
- Environment: ensures that the chapter’s obligations take into account Canada’s constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights related to harvesting of natural resources; and,
- State-owned enterprises (SOE): ensures that all existing and future SOEs may accord more favourable treatment to Indigenous persons and organizations in the purchase of goods and services.
- In addition to the carve-out related to Aboriginal harvesting of natural resources, the environment chapter includes provisions that recognize the important role of Indigenous peoples in the long-term conservation of the environment, sustainable fisheries and forestry management, and biodiversity conservation.
- The small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) chapter encourages parties to collaborate on activities that would enhance commercial opportunities for SMEs owned by under-represented groups, including Indigenous peoples, and promote their participation in international trade.
- A first for Canada’s FTAs, the textile and apparel goods chapter includes a provision under which handcrafted Indigenous textile and apparel goods are eligible for duty-free treatment pursuant to a special process.
- The outcome on government procurement maintains Canada’s ability to create procurement programs that support small and minority-owned businesses, including Indigenous businesses.
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