CFIB celebrates new era of open trade among provinces

TORONTO, April 7, 2017 – The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) applauds the federal and provincial governments for ironing out a new internal trade deal that aims to remove trade barriers within Canada. The Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) is such a major step towards resolving often conflicting rules and regulations across provinces that CFIB will be presenting the Trade Ministers involved with a special edition Golden Scissors Award for helping eradicate red tape on Canada’s small businesses.

“Delivering a modern, ambitious trade deal is a gift to the country as it celebrates its 150th Birthday,” said Laura Jones, Executive Vice-President at CFIB. “CFTA delivers on many of the things we have been seeking for years. Eighty-seven percent of CFIB members wanted the Premiers to commit to reducing trade barriers within Canada. There is more to do to eliminate some silly, irritating rules but the deal creates an innovative framework that we haven’t had before to get outstanding red tape issues resolved.”

A modern approach to trade

One of the more consequential changes in the new agreement is what’s referred to as the negative list approach. The prior Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) required provinces and territories to list all the goods and services which they allowed to be traded. Under the new trade deal, provinces will only list items they want excluded from the deal, which will set ‘open trade’ as the default position.

"The new negative list approach also brings a greater level of transparency that will make an enormous difference in the way small businesses will be able to trade," said Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice-President of National Affairs and Partnerships. “It brings CFTA inline with the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe. Prior to this new strategy, it was possible for European companies to have better access to Canadian trade opportunities than a business in a neighbouring province.” 

Also similar to CETA, many provincial and territorial governments have expanded their procurement by making approximately $4.7B of new-procurement opportunities available across Canada. Federal, provincial and territorial governments have also agreed to work towards posting tender notices to a single-point of access, making it easier to find procurement opportunities across the country.

In a 2015 report, CFIB found that 31 per cent of small business owners trading goods or moving workers in or out of their own province were frustrated with the often conflicting provincial rules and regulations they faced. The report outlined a new approach to internal free trade, and the new CFTA seems to have taken into account the top priorities for small business, including a mechanism to address the regulatory differences that act as needless barriers to trade and investment within Canada.

“It’s ridiculously frustrating for manufacturers that varying regulations force them to adapt their machinery to produce different sized dairy creamers for different provincial jurisdictions,” explained Pohlmann. “Or that Ontario construction workers looking for work outside the province must relearn how to avoid falling because their ‘fall arrest’ training is not recognized in different jurisdictions.”

“While the agreement is ambitious, we look at it as just the beginning,” assured Jones. “We will be closely monitoring its progress particularly with respect to the table set up to deal with red tape barriers. We look forward to continuing our work with the federal, provincial and territorial governments to maintain this momentum.”

To arrange an interview with Laura Jones or Corinne Pohlmann, please contact Kiara Morrissey at 416-222-8022, 647-464-2814 or

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.