June 24, 2022
In recognition of the five-year anniversary of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), I am writing on behalf of the representatives of the Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table (RCT) to provide our reflections on progress made to date to reconcile regulatory differences and to outline the RCT’s focus for the future.
The CFTA entered into force on July 1, 2017, with the objective of reducing and eliminating, to the extent possible, barriers to the free movement of persons, goods, services, and investments within Canada and establishing an open, efficient, and stable domestic market.
An important feature of the CFTA was the creation of the RCT, with representatives appointed by First Ministers and a mandate: 1) to lead efforts to reconcile differing regulatory measures that act as barriers to trade, investment, or labour mobility within Canada; and 2) to facilitate cooperation in the development of future regulatory measures.
Since the creation of its original 23-item Work Plan, the RCT and its Working Groups have negotiated 11 Reconciliation Agreements covering 15 Work Plan items. Another seven Work Plan items are scheduled for completion in the near term for a total of 22 Work Plan items completed or on track to be completed by the end of this year.
The areas negotiated for reconciliation are areas identified as priorities by stakeholders and governments. The resulting agreements have positively impacted both specific sectors – such as construction, agriculture, aquaculture, and transportation – and all industries more broadly, such as the reconciliation of standards for workplace safety equipment and training, and reconciling differences in corporate registration and reporting requirements. The economic impact of this work is significant: the National Research Council estimates the economic impact of aligning the adoption and the elimination of regional variances (where appropriate) of the construction code at $750 million to $1 billion annually.
We hope you agree that the work completed to date represents material progress. In saying that, we acknowledge that the pace of work slowed during the pandemic, given that many regulators who would typically negotiate agreements were called to focus on the pandemic response. As those regulators return to the tables, we are focused on reinvigorating the pace of work on negotiations.
And there is much more to be done. That is why we continue to add items to the Work Plan, including one item pursuing the identification and mutual recognition of all regulatory measures related to the sale or provision of goods and services. The working group established for this item is finalizing a scope of work for the identification of existing measures, creating an inventory of all relevant measures to better understand the opportunities and benefits of moving forward with mutual recognition.
As required by the CFTA, the RCT is undertaking a review of its operations and effectiveness. One area where the RCT is determined to focus its efforts, thanks to feedback from stakeholders, is to ensure timely implementation of the Reconciliation Agreements and to communicate that progress more regularly. Given the intent of the RCT’s work is to identify and eliminate barriers to trade within Canada for the benefit of Canadians, we invite your comments on the work of the RCT to date and, in particular, where it could be more effective.
The past five years has reinforced that there is no easy fix for the elimination of trade barriers. We recognize that more can and must be done. Given its significance to the Canadian economy, we will continue to make this work a priority.
In the meantime, I look forward to the ongoing engagement, involvement, and guidance by stakeholders on reducing internal trade barriers, including in the development of the next iteration of the RCT Work Plan.
RCT Chair, RCT Representative for Yukon