Public sector entities in Canada need to be aware of the various
trade agreements that might impact their procurement process. There
are a range of relevant agreements, which have varying impacts,
dependent on the nature of the procuring authority.
Although the details of each agreement vary, they share some
general principles. These can be summarized as:
Reducing barriers to trade
The main aim of each of the trade agreements is to reduce
barriers to trade between the contracting entities. Procurement is
only one area covered - others include ensuring that standards and
regulations do not restrict trade and enhancing labour
This is a key element to the procurement provisions of the trade
agreements - governments may not discriminate against vendors from
the other contracting parties. There may be some specific
exceptions but generally local vendors should not have an
advantage by way of any preferential treatment.
Transparency and process
In order to ensure that all parties are able to take advantage
of the trade agreements, they contain provisions dealing with
transparency and process. In the procurement area this may involve
requiring the use of web based directories, so that information
about upcoming procurements is easily accessible to all.
The trade agreements contain provisions to deal with disputes.
These vary in their effectiveness. As discussed in previous posts,
the federal government has provided that claims against it that
arise under the Agreement on Internal Trade or NAFTA can be brought
in the CITT. However, disputes between the provinces tend to be
dealt with on a government to government basis, with little direct
relief for dissatisfied vendors.
Each of the agreements contains exceptions. These generally
include exceptions for emergencies, procurement of health or social
services, national security and where only one supplier can meet
the requirements. The exceptions should be read narrowly - for
example, a government cannot claim that there is insufficient time
to run a procurement process, if the reason was a failure by the
government to start the procurement process early enough.
One key exception for procurements is that procurements under a
certain value (usually a different value is set for goods, services
and construction) are exempt from the requirements.
Subsequent posts will look in more detail at the various trade
agreements that apply, starting in the west, the New West
Partnership Trade Agreement and moving to the international arena,
including the latest agreement between Canada and the European
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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