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(Ottawa)—Interprovincial trade agreements can impact adversely on consumer protection. They are negotiated in secret. Consumers are not at the table. Most recent agreements give corporations the right to sue governments for damages caused by trade barriers. In theory the right to sue drives down prices which benefit consumers. But consumers also want governments that can provide protection.
A new Public Interest Advocacy Centre report, “The Consumer Perspective of Trade & Commerce Powers”, calls on the federal government to use its power over interprovincial trade to set out guidelines for conducting trade negotiations in an open and transparent manner. The report calls for consumer access to the dispute settlement mechanisms negotiated under these agreements.
“Efforts must focus on laying down proper foundations in the market for effective competition policy in Canada,” says Janet Lo, counsel for PIAC. “Competition benefits consumers and consumers are best served when the focus of trade agreements works to improve competition in Canadian markets, not simply the removal of interprovincial trade barriers.”
Lo, the report’s author, notes a trade barrier can cover a lot of ground from truck weights and dimensions to snow crab specifications. Her report warns interprovincial trade agreements tend to drive consumer rights down. The report calls for federal standards to ensure consumer interests are protected in the framework of interprovincial trade negotiations.
The PIAC report identifies a number of on-going interprovincial trade negotiations including: National securities regulator, Agreement on Enhancing the Ontario-Quebec Economic Region, Western Canadian Economic Partnership and the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia Partnership Agreement on Regulation and the Economy.
The full report is at http://www.piac.ca/interprovincialtrade.pdf
An executive summary is at http://www.piac.ca/interprovincialtradeexec.pdf