The Canadian government was open to recommendations for the renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) was happy to oblige.
The organization has highlighted seven priorities that it believes the Canadian government should focus on during the upcoming negotiations with the United States and Mexico. ITAC believes that this since the original NAFTA framework does not account for today’s digital economy, Canada has an opportunity to expand market access, update the agreement to better reflect this current economy, and establish principles that will keep the new NAFTA framework relevant over time, preventing this same situation from happening so soon in the future.
To start, ITAC points to one component from the failed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and incorporate it into NAFTA: the clause that incorporated protections for digital commerce. ‘
Here are the seven priorities outlined in ITAC’s submission to Global Affairs Canada on the renegotiation and modernization of NAFTA.
Priority 1: Maintaining Free Trade on the Internet
ITAC points to the fact that 88.6 per cent of ICT companies provide software and computer services via the internet, making this a prime concern. These protections would ideally guarantee market access for commercial activities over the internet and the free flow of data over borders.
It suggests aspects like internet openness, coordinated regulatory approaches, and technology neutrality protections.
Priority 2: Access to Government ICT Procurement Opportunities
Keeping in mind that governments can be some of the largest purchasers of ICT products and services, the organization believes it is paramount that Canada maintains the fact that Canadian firms are exempt from “Buy American” rules at the U.S. federal level. Not only should this be maintained, but ITAC suggests that it should be explored at the state and local levels over government as well, and that Canada should commit to exempting American firms from any “Buy Canadian” policies on ICT procurement.
Priority 3: Intellectual Property Protections
How NAFTA handles intellectual property (IP) should be updated understanding today’s modern technologies and platforms like social media. For example, NAFTA should clarify where a Canadian business can be sued in the U.S. – like only in districts where a business has significant business interests.
Priority 4: Intermediary Liability Protections
ITAC suggests that NAFTA should require countries to implement intermediary liability protection, subject to appropriate conditions. This would protect internet-based services from liability over third-party content.
Priority 5: Labour Mobility
The organization suggests that Canada should maintain NAFTA allowances for the temporary entry of business persons, and even expand it as well. This would prevent unnecessary delays while crossing the border.
Priority 6: Support Canada-U.S. Innovation Corridors
ITAC believes that the three countries should work together to promote innovation in areas that have naturally begun to work together. It points to the Cascadia Innovation Corridor that includes British Columbia and Washington State, and the Great Lakes region as popular regions for innovation in ICT.
It suggests that NAFTA should establish structures to accelerate the growth of these cross-border innovation corridors and reduce unnecessary barriers to this type of collaboration.
Priority 7: Support Small Internet Enabled Entrepreneurs
ITAC suggests that Canada raise its de minimis threshold (DMT), or the maximum value of goods that Canadian consumers can purchase duty-free, from $20 CAD to $800 USD. The current DMT can limit the benefits of NAFTA for small businesses and discourage small Canadian businesses from using the internet to expand their business and export.