‘Tis the Season for Trade Agreements

Canada has had a busy fall in regards to free trade agreements. The USMCA negotiations concluded at the end of September and it is set to be signed at the end of November 2018. Last week Canada was also one of the first countries to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The CPTPP is the largest free trade agreement to date and includes 11 different countries, namely:

  1. Australia
  2. Brunei
  3. Canada
  4. Chile
  5. Japan
  6. Malaysia
  7. Mexico
  8. New Zealand
  9. Peru
  10. Singapore
  11. Vietnam

Given all the challenges with the USMCA negotiations, Canada is now making a concerted effort to diversity its trade portfolio and increase trade with other nations. This was confirmed recently by the Canadian Trade Commissioner for Africa who spoke at the Canada Africa Chamber of Commerce’s Indaba event on October 25th, in which I was in attendance. In this context she was addressing Canada’s support of the new African Free Trade Agreement (AfrFTA) and the opportunities for Canadian companies in this context. The ratification of the CPTPP furthers this governmental imperative.

Although this agreement has been controversial in respect to the trade aspects (trade agreements always are), the immigration provisions will be highly useful for companies in Canada who are bringing in foreign expertise. So far Canada has immigration provisions in the agreement for professionals and technicians who are citizens from Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, and Peru. All other countries will benefit from the general provisions for Business Visitors and Intra-company transferees.

The business visitor provisions are similar to those in the NAFTA (soon to be the USMCA). The intra-company transfer provisions are more inclusive than the general C12 provisions as it includes sub categories for management trainees on professional development (a group that doesn’t comfortably fit into other categories although C20 reciprocal employment was often used), and separates out the provisions for Managers and Executives. Under the general C12 provisions it is ambiguous as to which managers are included under Senior Managers and which are not. The CPTPP also includes provisions for Investor based work permits.

Canada already has free trade agreements with Chile, Mexico, and Peru but the professional provisions for Chile and Mexico are much wider under the CPTTP and will likely supersede the previsions in the other agreements. The provisions for Peru are very similar to those in the existing free trade agreement with Peru.

In my opinion the big win here are the professional provisions for Australian citizens. Having worked a great deal with mining and engineering companies I have always wanted a category like this for Australian citizens. Previously there was often no alternative other than to obtain an LMIA for experienced Australian professionals who were newly hired to the company in Canada. This provision will be a very useful one.

So far the CPTPP has been ratified by Japan, Mexico, Singapore, and New Zealand as well as Canada. The CPTPP needs to be ratified by one more country, and will come into force 60 days after the sixth country ratifies the agreement.


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