Canada and dozens of other industrialized nations have agreed after 14 years of talks to give foreign companies greater access to each other’s government procurement contracts.
OTTAWA: Canada and dozens of other industrialized nations have agreed after 14 years of talks to give foreign companies greater access to each other’s government procurement contracts.
European Union officials said the agreement was reached after the 27-nation EU and Japan ironed out remaining differences early Dec. 15.
The World Trade Organization estimates that the agreement could add between $80 billion and $100 billion to global trade each year initially, rising to $450 billion once access is expanded to other nations. Currently the deal applies to the 27-nation EU and 14 other industrialized nations, including the United States and Japan.
Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast said the agreement was good news for Canadian firms and workers.
“Concluding this negotiation for a new agreement is proof of the value of the multi-lateral trading system and that the WTO is an effective vehicle to combat protectionism,” he said in a statement from Geneva released by his office.
It’s expected the agreement will be ready to be signed officially before next April.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he hoped China would join the group soon.
As part of the agreement Japan will allow foreign companies to bid for contracts in the $100-million reconstruction of regions hit by this year’s tsunami.
Fast’s office also reported that Canada and other like-minded nations signed a pledge committing them not to erecting new trade barriers in goods and services inconsistent with WTO rules, and to roll back barriers enacted since 2008.
Other nations that took the pledge include the US, EU, Australia, Chile and Thailand.
In notes of a speech to the WTO meeting in Geneva released in Ottawa, Fast noted that since 2009, when the economy was in recession, Canada liberalized duties on 1,800 tariff lines, while also eliminating all tariffs on manufacturing imports, the first country in the G20 to do so.
“And we’ve taken steps to remove the monopoly powers of the Canadian Wheat Board,” he added, while not mentioning that the issue has caused controversy in Canada and is being challenged in the courts.
Fast told ministers from around that world that Canada remains a steadfast supporter of free trade, even – and perhaps especially – during tough economic times.
“We understand the pressure some governments face to turn inward and impose protectionist policies,” he said. “We cannot allow that to happen. If our goal is prosperity for our citizens, protectionism is poisonous to that effort.”
© 2011 The Canadian Press, with files from the Associated Press