ST. JOHN’S, N.L.—Federal Industry Minister James Moore says he’s pushing for agreement among all premiers by the end of the year to break down inter-provincial trade barriers across Canada.
“My ambition is to be very aggressive on this both in terms of time and in terms of scope,” Moore said.
He made the comment after touring the local Quidi Vidi Brewing Co. in St. John’s, N.L., to stress how provincial regulations block the export of beer and other products across the country.
Moore said he hopes premiers will emerge united to promote freer trade across provincial boundaries when they hold their annual meeting at the end of the month in Prince Edward Island.
“We can act unilaterally in some regards,” he said when asked whether Ottawa would impose changes if talks stall.
But Moore said he’s encouraged by recent steps in the right direction.
He cited increased labour mobility between Ontario and Quebec and in Atlantic Canada, along with a joint letter last month from the premiers of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia calling for a knock-down of trade barriers.
The almost 20-year-old Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) that regulates inter-provincial trade came into effect when Canada had free-trade deals with two countries.
Today, Canada has pacts with more than 40 countries.
Free trade with Europe, if finalized as part of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), would offer more foreign access to some Canadian markets than now exists domestically, Moore said.
“It’s, to me, critical that we have as much economic opportunity for Canadians within Canada as we do have trade opportunities around the world,” he said. “I certainly hope that before the end of the year we’ll have a clear consensus amongst all provinces to move forward.”
Premier Tom Marshall of Newfoundland and Labrador met with Moore and said his province is on board.
“It seems a bit ridiculous that we have rights under foreign agreements and that we don’t have the same rights under our own agreement of internal trade with other provinces,” he said in an interview.
“When CETA’s approved we’ll be able to sell into Europe but not necessarily be able to sell into other provinces. So it’s time for the agreement to be modernized.”