|Federal Minister of Industry James Moore says the time is right for the federal government to pursue free trade within Canada. Minister Moore is poised to release a white paper on internal trade barriers in Canada that critiques the 20-year-old Agreement on Internal Trade originally intended to break down internal trade barriers. He is also expected to give officials a mandate to start the process of negotiating with provinces as early as this fall.The announcement came after Premier Christy Clark, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Alberta Premier Dave Hancock came together at the annual Western Premiers’ Conference to push for the removal of trade barriers between provinces. They say this approach would reduce the costs of doing business and help provincial economies grow.
Moore says the status quo is costing billions of dollars a year in lost business opportunities and jobs. He highlighted one study that estimates the losses at $50 billion. He says trade restrictions are most damaging in regard to labour mobility, investment mobility, and provincial and municipal government procurement. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has also cited interprovincial trade restrictions as a reason for what it considers low productivity performance in Canada.
B.C. Minister of International Trade Teresa Wat stated that B.C. is among Moore’s strongest supporters, arguing that it should not be easier to trade with other countries than within Canada. She highlighted B.C.’s wine industry, which would benefit greatly from the change. Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa voiced opposition, however, noting that a number of sectors in Ontario are strong because they are protected.