Fraser Forum

Manitoba latest province to join pact that facilitates trade across provincial lines

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The Government of Manitoba has finally joined the New West Partnership (NWP) trade agreement with British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The agreement allows for people and businesses to operate more freely across provincial lines.

With the rise of protectionist political movements throughout the developed world, any good news on the trade front is positive, even if it’s just within our own country. While there aren’t any tariffs on inter-provincial trade, there are a number of other trade barriers. These trade costs between provinces may seem minor, but they add up. University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe has estimated that internal trade liberalization could increase GDP by $50 to $130 billion.

Those costs permeate everyday life. While much of the focus on inter-provincial trade has related to restrictions on alcohol purchases across provincial lines, they can have a significant impact on more fundamental decisions such as where to live and work.

For instance, licensed professionals often need a new provincial certification if they decide to move from one province to the next, which can be particularly irritating for people who may want to work on the other side of a provincial border. Similarly, businesses that decide to expand across provincial lines need to incorporate in both provinces and operate under different regulations. These sometimes needless duplications impose costs on people and businesses that decide to cross provincial lines, and in other cases, prevent them from doing so in the first place.

The New West Partnership addresses some of these challenges between the member provinces. The agreement allows for certified professionals to work in any of the provinces party to the agreement, allows businesses to register in all of the NWP provinces at the time of incorporation, and streamlines regulations across participating provinces.

While the specter of vanishing international trade agreements should worry us all, the fact that we’ve taken a small step towards freer internal trade is a welcome bright spot.

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