Agreement on Internal Trade

Overview of the Agreement on Internal Trade

Benefits of the Agreement on Internal Trade

The Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) is an intergovernmental agreement signed by Canadian First Ministers that came into force in 1995. Its purpose is to foster improved interprovincial trade by addressing obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and investments within Canada.

The establishment of the AIT marks a significant achievement in helping to remove the existing interprovincial trade barriers, prevent the establishment of new barriers and harmonise interprovincial standards. These actions reduce extra costs to Canadian businesses by making internal trade more efficient, increasing market access for Canadian companies and facilitating work mobility for tradespeople and professionals.

Guiding Principles

Parties to the AIT agreed to six general rules, established to prevent governments from establishing new trade barriers and to reduce existing barriers:

  • Non-discrimination
    Establishing equal treatment for all Canadian persons, goods, services and investments.
  • Right of entry and exit
    Prohibiting measures that restrict the movement of persons, goods, services or investments across provincial or territorial boundaries.
  • No obstacles 
    Ensuring provincial/territorial government policies and practices do not create obstacles to trade.
  • Legitimate objectives
    Ensuring provincial/territorial non-trade objectives which may cause some deviation from the above guidelines have a minimal adverse impact on interprovincial trade. 
  • Reconciliation
    Providing the basis for eliminating trade barriers caused by differences in standards and regulations across Canada.
  • Transparency
    Ensuring information is accessible to interested businesses, individuals and governments.

Economic Sectors

The AIT focuses on reducing trade barriers within eleven specific sectors:

  • Procurement 
    Eliminating local price preferences, biased technical specifications, unfair registration requirements and other discriminatory practices for non-resident suppliers in order to ensure equal access to procurement for all interested Canadian suppliers.
  • Investment 
    Ensuring Canadian businesses can make investment decisions based on market conditions by eliminating barriers to investment based on head-office location, prohibiting local content and purchasing conditions, reducing local residency requirements and standardizing corporate registration requirements.
  • Labour Mobility
    Enabling qualified workers to practice their occupation anywhere in Canada by eliminating residency requirements, requiring licensing, certification and registration of workers to be based primarily on competence, committing to recognizing a worker’s occupational qualifications and reconciling differences in occupational standards
  • Consumer-Related Measures and Standards
    Reconciling the consumer protection requirements of different provinces and territories which act as non-tariff barriers in order to allow Canadian firms to capitalise on economies of scale by servicing larger markets with the same products.
  • Agricultural and Food ProductsExamining supply management systems for dairy, poultry and eggs; removing technical barriers between provinces, such as differing product and grade standards, and plant and animal health regulations.
  • Alcoholic Beverages
    Prohibiting discriminatory practices in areas such as product listing, pricing, distribution and merchandising between the liquor control boards and retail outlets of the provinces and territories.
  • Natural Resources Processing
    Prohibiting the introduction of new barriers to the processing of forestry, fisheries and mineral resource products.
  • EnergyHarmonising the treatment of energy goods and energy services. Negotiations are still underway on this chapter.
  • CommunicationsEnsuring equal access to public telecommunications networks and the use of public telecommunications services.
  • Transportation
    Harmonising the regulations applicable to commercial vehicles such as safety standards and weights and dimension rules.
  • Environmental Protection
    Ensuring that federal, provincial or territorial environmental protection measures do not become a non-tariff trade barrier.

Dispute Resolution Procedures

The AIT features a formal dispute settlement mechanism to deal with complaints. It is accessible to governments, individuals and the private sector.

For More Information

Each province, territory and the federal government has an Internal Trade Representative assigned to handle internal trade matters within their respective jurisdictions.  An up-to-date listing of representatives, is available in the Contact Us section.

The Internal Trade Secretariat was formed to support and administer the AIT. For more information about the AIT, please contact the Secretariat.