Delay in Signing on to Inter Provincial Trade Deal Hurts Manitoba Businesses

chuck-davidson-staff-224x300There has been a lot of discussion recently regarding the fact Manitoba is not included in the New West Partnership and the impact it’s having on some Manitoba businesses being unable to bid on contracts in other provinces.

Manitoba Government officials have indicated a reluctance to join the New West Partnership, stating they are in favour of a national agreement and have concerns in regards to the dispute resolution mechanisms.

The Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), which came into effect on July 1, 1995, is a national agreement designed to improve trade between the provinces/territories. But, progress has been frustratingly slow, with many aspects not yet agreed upon. There is also a lack of effective enforcement mechanisms, and those that exist are slow processes. This lack of progress has led some provinces to create bi and tri-lateral agreements.

These include:

  • In October, 2007 the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), came in effect between BC and AB.
  • On October 1, 2009 the Ontario-Quebec Trade and Cooperation Agreement (OQTCA) took effect.
  • On May 31, 2010, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia signed an agreement called the New West Partnership Agreement (NWPA), which expanded upon the previous TILMA agreement.

Despite the other western provinces indicating that Manitoba would be welcomed to join the NWPA, the provincial government’s decision to sign on leaves Manitoba as the only province west of the Maritimes not in an agreement and isolated on its own.

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce (MCC) believe that promoting Manitoba’s best interests through a ready-made agreement that offers tangible benefits now does not preclude a national effort. Participation in the NWPA is consistent with also working towards a more effective national agreement, so Manitoba has no reason to delay joining the NWPA.

The New West Partnership Agreement contains the following four components:

  1. A comprehensive economic agreement, which will remove remaining barriers to trade, investment and labour mobility.
  2. An international co-operation agreement, that will see the three provinces co-operate on trade and investment missions to international markets, and share foreign market intelligence to advance joint interests and increase business competitiveness;
  3. An innovation agreement, which will enable provincial efforts to be coordinated to better attract investment and talent, as well as build critical mass;
  4. A procurement agreement that will enable the provinces to capitalize on their combined buying power through the joint procurement of goods and services.

MCC is concerned that the most recent developments provide further reason why Manitoba businesses are the ones that will suffer most from Manitoba not being a part of the NWPA and additional rationale as to why MCC has repeatedly called on the provincial government to join the New West Partnership Agreement, or enhance and improve a similar agreement.

Chuck Davidson
President and CEO
Manitoba Chambers of Commerce

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