CANADA – Negotiations between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are continuing into 2018 as the three countries decide the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Negotiations began on August 16th, 2017, and the fourth round closed in late November. 

Reports suggest that cooperation among the three countries has been good so far, but contentious issues have risen in the most recent round of negotiations. Negotiators remain committed to continuing talks into March 2018, in order to reach a renewed agreement which will work for all parties.

Since Canada’s biggest trade partnership is with the U.S., changes to NAFTA will have a major impact on how Canadians do business. The current uncertainty around NAFTA makes it hard for small businesses to plan for the future.

Here is what Canadian small businesses need to know about the most recent round of negotiations.

NAFTA will have dedicated chapter on small business. As part of the renegotiations, small businesses have scored a big win: the updated agreement will include a chapter focused on small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly those which do business across borders.

This has been a top priority for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business when talking to the government about NAFTA. This part of the agreement will help small businesses engage in cross-border trade.

Still up for review are issues around labour, the environment, and reduction of red tape.

The U.S list of objectives for the NAFTA, released last July 17, includes dispute resolution, competition policy, labour and the environment.

Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada, Chrystia Freeland, outlined key priority areas for Canada last August 14. These include minimizing red tape, strong labour and environmental standards, government procurement, and a focus on gender and Indigenous rights.

General Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs with special responsibilities for Canada-U.S relations, provided CFIB members with an overview of the issues and answered business owners’ questions.

CFIB has submitted the following recommendations to government:

  • Ensure that the free flow of labour remains a part of NAFTA and work to improve labour mobility rules;
  • Include a chapter specifically addressing the needs and challenges faced by small businesses who trade;
  • Reduce the administrative burden for small businesses involved in trade;
  • Let trucks cross the border faster;
  • Keep trade across the borders as free from taxes and tariffs as possible. The current range of duty-free goods should at least stay as it is, but ideally it should grow; and
  • Improve dispute resolution mechanisms to ensure equal treatment of all parties, and guarantee that members will respect final decisions.

The CFIB invites Canadian small business to participate in the process by sharing experience trading with the U.S. and/or Mexico, so the organization can share concerns Canada’s national leaders as negotiations continue.