by Christopher J. Kukucha
Three things you need to know about the provinces and international trade negotiations:
- CETA was not the first international trade negotiations involving Canadian provinces. Provinces have been involved in the negotiation and implementation of foreign trade agreements dating back to the 1970s and the Tokyo Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). CETA, however, was the first international negotiations to have Canadian provinces “in the room” with EU and Canadian negotiators.
- Provincial governments in Canada became important in negotiations due to the increasing intrusiveness of these agreements into areas of sub-federal jurisdiction. Historically foreign trade negotiations focused solely on tariffs, which are the responsibility of the federal government in Canada. The agenda soon expanded into areas of provincial responsibility, including services, health and safety standards, procurement, and labour mobility.
- Ottawa is motivated to include the provinces in negotiations due to concerns related to the implementation of these commitments. Initially, the provinces were not heavily involved in GATT negotiations involving provincial areas of jurisdiction, but Ottawa was forced to expand this role almost immediately as Ontario failed to comply with international commitments related to the distribution and pricing of beer.
Three myths about the provinces and international trade negotiations:
Myth #1: Ottawa is constitutionally obligated to include the provinces in international trade negotiations.
The Reality: There are no provisions in the Canadian constitution focusing on the role of the provinces in Canadian foreign trade policy. In fact, there is very little outlining federal responsibilities in this policy area, with only Sec. 132 of the British North America Act giving Ottawa the right to implement Dominion treaties.
The Reality: In fact, the opposite was true. The EU was reluctant to proceed with talks on CETA due to the previous Canada-EU Trade and Investment Enhancement Agreement (TIEA). From a European perspective, the provinces were directly to blame for the collapse of TIEA in 2006, even though provincial governments were not included until the very late stages of TIEA negotiations.
The Reality: Most international trade agreements contain similar commitments for provincial governments but others vary. Added to this are a number of internal trade agreements such as the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), the Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA), and the Ontario-Québec Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). The proliferation of trade agreements has the potential to create a “spaghetti bowl” of governance, with a tangled labyrinth of rules and norms that are not always complimentary.
Christopher J. Kukucha is a professor at the University of Lethbridge. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Alberta and his M.A. from the University of Windsor. He is a co-editor, with Duane Bratt, of Readings in Canadian Foreign Policy: Classic Debates and New Ideas (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is also the author of The Provinces and Canadian Foreign Trade Policy (UBC Press, 2008). In 2007, Chris served as the William J. Fulbright Research Chair in Canadian Studies at the State University of New York (Plattsburgh). He is the past President of the International Studies Association of Canada and a former book review editor for the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal. His primary teaching and research areas include Canadian foreign policy, international political economy, international relations theory, and Canada’s global trade relations.