A container ship arriving in port on a very calm day.

Canada’s free trade negotiations have been hectic in recent years. Canada recently concluded a free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea, and it has a hand in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership talks with 11 other Pacific Rim nations. Add to that the almost completed Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with the European Union and it’s a busy, positive time for the global trading terrain.

Why all the activity? “Salespeople are usually reluctant to fight their customers,” says a document touting the benefits of free trade by the Geneva-based World Trade Organization. Indeed, trade agreements help to keep the economic peace between trading partners by providing dispute-resolution mechanisms. For proponents, free trade agreements have many other benefits as well: by lowering or eliminating tariffs and trade barriers, the ostensible result is lowered prices for consumer goods and services—not to mention, a wider variety of goods (asparagus in winter?). Proponents also maintain that these agreements ultimately boost incomes (detractors disagree, saying that domestic producers are forced to compete with cheap imports) and that trade agreements can lead to job creation.

Canada tends to conclude agreements with countries whose economies look little like its own—hence, the suite of free trade agreements with southern nations such as Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica. But Canada has shown less appetite for other natural resources- and agriculture-heavy nations, such as Australia. With the exception of NAFTA and the pending European Union agreement, Ottawa has had a better record in inking agreements with very small nations.

Here’s a survey of Canada’s nine existing trade treaties, two FTAs that have been concluded but not yet ratified, and a host of other negotiations still underway.

READ Trading Places: The Evolving Landscape of Global Trade

EXISTING TRADE TREATIES

CHILE

(Signed Dec. 5, 1996. Came into force July 5, 1997)

Total trade with Canada: $2.561 billion

Largest export: copper

Largest import: cereals

Background: Canada’s first FTA with a South American country, and Chile’s first such agreement with any country. The Chilean agreement was a natural, as Canada has had good relations with Chile since the late 1970s. Since this FTA came into force, it has continued to be amended; in April 2012, the two countries added a financial services passage to the FTA and updated sections on government procurement, dispute settlement and customs procedures. This FTA may be the “in” that the Canadian government is hoping for to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade zone made up of countries on both sides of the Pacific. The intent of the FTA also is to boost Chile’s accession into NAFTA.

What changed: Both countries have benefited: two-way trade has more than tripled; direct investment from Canada—the largest source of new investment in Chile over the past decade—has grown to more than $13 billion.

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