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TRADE POLICY REVIEW: CANADA
12 and 14 March 2003

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

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See also:
Press release: Sound economic policies have helped to weather global slowdown


This Trade Policy Review has proved to be a very open and productive dialogue between Canada and its trading partners, in the true spirit of the Trade Policy Review Mechanism.  This was made possible by the full engagement and good humour of the Canadian delegation, led by Mr. Randle Wilson and Ambassador Sergio Marchi, the insightful comments by our discussant, Ambassador Stefßn Jˇhannesson, and the active involvement of a great many Members.  I would also like to commend the Canadian delegation for providing written answers to advance questions at the start of our first session on Wednesday, and for the additional documentation which they made available today.

Canada was commended for its strong economic performance since its previous Review, in spite of a world economic slowdown.  Canada's efforts in implementing economic reforms, and the openness and transparency of its trade regime were credited for this result.  Noting that its trade was concentrated on a few preferential trading partners, and in particular on the United States, Members invited Canada to seek trade diversification.

Canada's strong commitment to the work of the WTO was acknowledged.  Members praised Canada's involvement in the DDA and its initiative to enhance access to its market for exports from LDCs.  Canada's contribution to technical assistance programmes for developing countries was also highly commended.  Some Members asked Canada to consider expanding the coverage of its GPT treatment.  Canada was also urged to ensure that its growing number of preferential trade agreements was supportive of multilateral liberalization.

Access to the Canadian market is generally liberal, but a number of barriers remain.  While Canada's average MFN tariff has decreased slightly, Members expressed concern about tariff peaks and tariff escalation.  Concerning non-tariff measures, Members noted the strict use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures by Canada, which could result in barriers or increased costs for exporters from other countries.

The number and duration of anti-dumping investigations and measures in Canada were of concern to a number of Members.  It was noted that the mere threat of an investigation or the imposition of provisional duties could act as a deterrent to trade.  Members showed interest in the exclusion of anti-dumping in the Canada-Chile free trade agreement, with some considering that the application of different rules to imports from preferential partners could lead to discrimination among suppliers.  Members also expressed concern with respect to Canada's safeguard investigation on some steel products.

While commending Canada for the transparency of its government procurement regime and its active role in the GPA Committee, some Members invited Canada to table an offer at the sub-federal level.  The use of regional and local preferences for procurement not covered by the GPA was queried.

Many Members considered that Canada's restrictive marketing arrangements and local content requirements could affect access for foreign wines and other alcoholic beverages.  The issue was also raised of provincial assistance programmes, notably in primary sectors, and of various export programmes, including those of Export Development Canada.  Also noted were aspects of intellectual property rights, including enforcement, ratification of treaties, compulsory licensing, patenting of life forms, copyright reform, and geographical indications.

On sectoral policies, Members noted the protection granted to the steel industry through  contingency measures.  In the textiles and clothing industry, some participants observed that market access remained restricted by high tariffs and quotas, while rules of origin favoured particular trading partners.  Information was exchanged about measures to help the industry prepare for the removal of quotas by the end of 2004.   

Canada's objectives to reduce market distortions to agricultural trade in the WTO were appreciated.  However, foreign access restrictions in the supply-managed dairy, poultry and egg sectors persisted, including through high out-of-quota tariff rates and low volume commitments.  The Canadian Dairy Commission's de facto import monopoly on butter, and the export privileges of the Canadian Wheat Board were also discussed.  

Canada's trade regime in services was described as generally liberal, and participants welcomed recent reforms, notably in banking.  The provincial and federal regulation for insurance services was the subject of several interventions.  Members also sought Canada's views on developing GATS rules regarding air transport, and expressed hope that Canada would expand its commitments in maritime transport.  Calls were made for the removal of remaining restrictions on foreign investment in the telecommunications sector, which we know are under review.  Some Members considered that Canada's audio-visual sectors should not be, as a whole, exempt from WTO disciplines.

Members also made comments and sought further clarification on a number of specific areas including:

  • harmonization under the Agreement on Internal Trade;
  • competition policy;
  • foreign investment restrictions and review provisions;
  • customs procedures;
  • local content or processing requirements in forestry and mining;
  • restrictions on trade in bulk horticultural products;  and
  • barriers to entry of natural persons in services.

The replies provided by the delegation of Canada have made a major contribution to this Review.  Members clearly appreciated these replies.

This brings us to the conclusion of the seventh Review of Canada.  We can all attest to Canada's long-standing commitment to transparency and to the multilateral trading system.  A liberal trade regime and sound economic policies have allowed Canada to improve its living standards continuously, even in the face of a global economic slowdown.  However, significant policy-induced distortions still affect a few domestic activities, not only imposing costs on Canadians at large but also undermining Canada's otherwise firm efforts to eliminate inefficiencies in global markets.  I believe that Canada's ongoing efforts to move forward its domestic reform programme will be buttressed by our joint multilateral endeavours, to the benefit of all.