Trade ministers gathered in Toronto Friday to congratulate each other for pledging to lower internal trade barriers that have irritated businesses for decades.

Every province and territory, as well as the federal government, has signed on to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), a new deal to co-ordinate trade across interprovincial borders and replace limited rules put in place two decades ago that are no longer up to the job.

It’s significant in three ways:

  • It creates a formal and binding process for cutting the myriad of trade barriers that currently exist.
  • It catches up to what provinces and territories offered Europeans in the Canada-EU trade deal, opening up, not just the same access to government contracts, but better access.
  • It improves the dispute resolution system currently in place between jurisdictions, making it faster and simpler to start and doubling potential fines payable if jurisdictions can’t justify regulations.

“This sends a very clear message that Canada is open,” Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said as he thanked the eight provincial trade ministers in attendance for their work. “This is really about Canada strengthening our home field advantage.”

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