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NAFTA negotiations are ongoing - here’s what it means for you

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On August 16th, 2017, negotiations between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico officially began to decide the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Reports suggest that cooperation among the three countries has been pretty good so far, but contentious issues have risen in the most recent round of negotiations that have negotiators extending their deadline into 2018. Negotiators remain committed to finding a renewed agreement which will work for all parties.

Since Canada’s biggest trade partnership is with the U.S., changes to NAFTA will have a major impact on how we do business. As we have always told the government, the uncertainty around NAFTA makes it hard for small businesses like yours to plan for the future.

Here is what you need to know about the current round of negotiations.

Early victory: NAFTA will have dedicated chapter on small biz

As part of the renegotiations, small businesses have scored a big win: the updated agreement will include a chapter focused on small and medium-sized enterprises! This has been one of your top priorities when we talk to the government about NAFTA. We’re thrilled to see that the agreement will help small businesses like yours engage in cross-border trade. Read our press release for more.

Up for review: labour, environment, red tape

On July 17, the U.S released a list of its objectives for the NAFTA renegotiation. The document lists a wide range of areas up for discussion, including dispute resolution, competition policy, labour and the environment.

In a speech on August 14, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland outlined key priority areas for Canada, including red tape, strong labour and environmental standards, government procurement, and a focus on gender and Indigenous rights.

Insight into NAFTA negotiations 

In addition, on July 12th, we hosted a webinar for our members with General Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs with special responsibilities for Canada-U.S relations. Gen. Leslie provided an overview of the issue and answered business owners’ questions.

Don’t worry if you missed the webinar! 

Recommendations from you, for you

The government is also ca­rrying out consultations with the public. We have participated in the consultation to share your concerns around trade issues, focusing on the following recommendations:

  • Movement of labour: Ensure that the free flow of labour remains a part of NAFTA and work to improve labour mobility rules.
  • SME chapter: Include a chapter specifically addressing the needs and challenges faced by small businesses who trade. (Mission accomplished - see above.).
  • Red tape (non-tariff barriers): Reduce the administrative burden for small businesses involved in trade.
  • Transportation issues: Work to let trucks cross the border faster.
  • The importance of duty-free: Keep trade across the borders as free from taxes and tariffs as possible. The current range of duty-free goods should at least stay as it is, but ideally it should grow.
  • Dispute resolution mechanisms: Improve dispute resolution mechanisms to ensure equal treatment of all parties, and guarantee that members will respect final decisions.

Participate in the process! Tell the government what you would like to see in a renewed agreement.

CFIB on your side

We have been meeting with MPs, Ministers and bureaucrats throughout the federal and provincial governments to discuss your perspective on this important issue. We have also been working closely with Global Affairs Canada, and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service and sharing your feedback directly with government. As negotiations progress, CFIB will continue to serve as the voice of Canada’s small businesses on this critical issue.

We want to hear from you!

Negotiations are on now and we are keeping a close eye on the process and informing you of any change along the way. We are working hard to ensure that we continue to represent your views on trade with our southern neighbours. We always want to hear from you! Tell us about your experience trading with the U.S. and/or Mexico, so we can share your concerns with our national leaders.

As always, CFIB business counsellors are available to answer questions and learn how changes in the Canada/U.S. trade relationship impact your business.

Beyond NAFTA, softwood lumber dispute continues

Although outside the scope of NAFTA, in November 2017 the US government announced that it would place duties ranging from 3% to 14% on Canadian lumber imports. Although not as penalizing as announced previously, the duties will still weight heavily on the Canadian forestry industry. The federal government immediately released a statementcalling the duties "unfair, unwarranted and deeply troubling," and pledging to fight the decision.

For background: On June 1, the government announced $867 million in measures to support forest industry workers and communities affected by U.S. measures targeting softwood lumber. This was later followed with preliminary anti-dumping duties on Canadian softwood lumber on June 23, 2017. See government Backgrounder on Softwood Lumber Action Plan for more information.