Amidst the rapid developments and constant announcements related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada also announced that the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) passed in Parliament before it closed due to the global pandemic. Since then, the CUSMA received royal assent on March 13, 2020, and the agreement has now been ratified in all three countries. According to the Protocol Replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement, CUSMA will enter into force on the first day of the third month following the last notification, therefore, late spring 2020.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic. Since then, a number of measures have been implemented around the globe to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
Here is a summary of key announcements and changes in Canada related to trade:
- Border measures: On March 16, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada closed its borders to all travelers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or US citizens. All international air traffic is directed to four airports in Canada: Montréal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
Starting on March 21, 2020, Canada reached an agreement with the United States to close all borders between Canada and the United States to non-essential travel, specifically travel that is considered for tourism and recreation. The Prime Minister reassured Canadians that trade and commerce will continue. The Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) announcement stresses the critical importance of preserving supply chains, including trucking, to ensure food, fuel and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. The new measures will not impact the flow of goods between the two countries. Nor will there be an impact on Americans and Canadians who cross the land border every day to do essential work or for other urgent or essential reasons. This measure will be in place for 30 days, after which it will be reviewed by both parties. An update on Canada’s travel ban resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak can be found here.
- Imported emergency goods: On March 16, 2020, the Government of Canada issued an order under the Financial Administration Act. The Order, in conjunction with Tariff Item No. 9993.00.00, allows for relief of duty and taxes payable on goods required for an emergency, and that are imported by or on behalf of federal, provincial or municipal entities, such as healthcare centres and authorities, as well as by or on behalf of members of first response organizations, such as police, fire and local civil defence groups, including medical response teams. All these goods on which remission is granted must be exported from Canada when they are no longer required, with the exception of those goods that are consumed or destroyed during the emergency. The temporary importation regulations waive the requirement to provide proof of export for goods consumed or destroyed in an emergency. Wherever possible, the CBSA inspector officers will expedite the clearance of these goods. Importations remain subject to examination at the time of importation or post-release verification for compliance with any applicable provisions administered by the CBSA.
- Waiver of late accounting penalties: On March 19, 2020, the CBSA announced that it will provide for a grace period of 45 business days for late accounting penalties, in order to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 and difficulties with submitting a timely accounting for imported goods. This grace period applies to transactions released from March 11, 2020, to May 14, 2020, inclusively, and will be subject to review as the situation evolves. As a result, late accounting penalties will not be imposed on importers that are unable to submit an accounting declaration for imported goods released on minimum documentation.
- Corrections deadline extended: On March 18, 2020, the CBSA issued a Customs Notice indicating that the period of 90 days for submitting corrections following a CBSA trade compliance verification where errors were found will automatically be extended by 30 days. This means that importers now have 120 days to file corrections requested by the CBSA verifications of trade compliance with the Tariff Classification, Valuation and Origin programs. The list of CBSA priorities has not changed.
- Temporary imports of US vehicles: To help Canadians get home, the CBSA will permit the temporary import of US vehicles without paying duties and taxes for Canadians crossing the border in a US-plated vehicle trying to get home to Canada if the following conditions are met: the vehicle is used by the Canadian to get from the border to a destination in Canada; the vehicle will only remain in Canada for a period of less than 60 days, and the vehicle cannot be used locally in Canada for touring or other leisure activities. The time limit may be re-evaluated as the COVID-19 situation evolves.
- Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) measures: The CITT cancelled all scheduled in-person appeal hearings (case filed beginning with AP, EP, EA) up to and including Tuesday, April 14, 2020. All these hearings will be rescheduled.
- All scheduled filing deadlines are maintained, including any scheduled filing deadlines in regards to anti-dumping, countervail, and safeguard matters. The Tribunal will consider any requests for extension on a case-by-case basis. The hearing in Inquiry No. NQ-2019-001 (Sucker Rods) will proceed by way of a file hearing (the details on what that will entail will be communicated shortly by the CITT).
- Closure of all non-essential business: Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, announced that starting at midnight on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, all non-essential businesses in the province will be closed to help deal with the spread of COVID-19. He says the order will be in place for at least 14 days. Similar measures have been implemented in the Province of Québec. Guidance issued by both provinces suggest that most businesses directly involved in international supply chains, like freight forwarders, customs brokerages, bonded warehouses, port and airport facilities (and related facilities and infrastructure) will be allowed to remain open.
The situation changes every day, and emergency measures are put into place to combat and prevent the spread of the virus as much as possible. For further advice on trade-related measures, please contact any member of our team.