By Greg Kanargelidis and Michael Fabbri
On April 16 2002, International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew released the government’s annual report on Canada’s market access priorities for 2002. The Report, Opening Doors to the World: Canada’s International Market Access Priorities – 2002, describes significant market-opening results achieved in the past year and outlines the government’s strategy for achieving improved access for goods and services and investments in key foreign markets in the year ahead.
The report sets out the range of initiatives the government will pursue in 2002 at the multilateral, regional and bilateral levels, and provides details on specific obstacles to be tackled in various markets. The report is a useful roadmap of the current and likely future developments in international trade and of the opportunities available to Canadian based importers and exporters.
World Trade Organization
The cornerstone of Canada’s international trade policy is the World Trade Organization (WTO). As a result, the Report recognizes the importance of the WTO in terms of multilateral trade negotiations, for monitoring the implementation of obligations and commitments under various agreements, and for reviewing members’ trade policies and practices. In particular, the Report notes the launch of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations during the Ministerial Conference held in Doha, Qatar in November 2001.
This part of the Report recognizes the importance of the WTO as the cornerstone for trade negotiations, for monitoring the implementation of obligations and commitments under various agreements, and for reviewing members’ trade policies and practices. The 2002 update also identifies the significance of the new round of multilateral trade negotiations held by WTO members in Doha, Qatar.
This part of the Report is divided into a discussion of market access initiatives in trade in goods, and also in trade in services. The Report also discusses mentions the new accessions to the WTO; namely, the countries of China, Chinese Taipei, Lithuania and Moldova all joined the WTO in 2001. Canadian exporters and importers should find numerous opportunities to take advantage of unilateral trade measures which each new member would have agreed to take as a condition to joining the WTO. The Report also mentions that some 30 additional countries have applied for membership in the WTO and of this number, the more significant countries include: Russia; Saudi Arabia; Ukraine; and Vietnam. Canadian importers and exporters should follow the accession negotiations carefully to pick up any market access commitments that can be used to the best advantage.
NAFTA and North American Trade
In another part of the Report, trade with North America is canvassed and in particular selected trade issues involving the U.S. and Mexico are highlighted. In particular, the Report identifies Canada’s continuing efforts to establish a stable and transparent trade environment throughout North, Central and South America. Canada is continuing to work with the United States and Mexico to clarify a number of key procedural and substantive provisions dealing with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For example, Canada, the United States and Mexico agreed to accelerate the elimination of NAFTA tariffs on a number of products, effective January 1, 2002.
The report also commends Canada’s success in hosting the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, which helped make progress towards building the largest free trade area in the world under the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Canada secured the agreement of the FTAA partners to release the draft-consolidated text, which was made available in July of 2001. This was a major step toward greater transparency in trade negotiations.
Canada also concluded a bilateral free trade agreement with Costa Rica and launched trade negotiations with the four Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Canada also advanced discussions with the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on a framework for free trade negotiations. This is in addition to the free trade agreements already in place between Canada and Chile (since 1997) and Costa Rica (expected in 2002). The Report also indicates that the Dominican Republic has also expressed an interest in a free trade agreement with Canada.
The Report also discusses Canada’s current trade relationship with the European Union (EU) and identifies some major initiatives for the progression of a Canada/EU bilateral trade relationship. For example, the EU removed regulatory barriers to the import of Canadian ice wine in May 2001, and progress has been made toward agreements on wine and spirits through negotiations that were identified in November 2001. Canada and the EU also agreed on the equivalency of their respective legislation concerning the protection of data privacy. Canada is also involved in ongoing negotiations toward a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
The remaining parts of the Report outline Canada’s trade progress and objectives with APEC and other Southeast Asian nations, including free trade negotiations with Singapore. They also discuss Canada’s key priorities in other markets including the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, The Maghreb region (Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia) and Canada’s growing relationship with South Africa.
The Report, Opening Doors to the World: Canada’s International Market Access Priorities – 2002, should be required reading for those Canadian companies who are serious about international trade and in particular who are involved in the exportation and/or importation of goods and services. The trade initiatives serve as a roadmap to businesses of the types of opportunities may be available in the various markets, and the market access priorities set out in the Report indicate future potential opportunities for companies.
The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.