CPA Canada seeks detailed input on NAFTA’s importance to the profession

NAFTA negotiations illustrate how professional services providers can be affected by trade agreements. Canada’s trade negotiators need to understand, and CPA Canada needs to hear, your views.

The ongoing NAFTA renegotiations have cast uncertainty over a number of industries and, more generally, the Canadian economy. Many CPAs are keeping a close eye on the negotiations because of the importance of the United States or Mexico to their own business or practice.

Similarly, Canadian trade negotiators and policy analysts are eager to understand how providers of professional services are affected by trade proposals. As a category, professional services is a growing component of Canada’s international trade. Yet, this can be a difficult category to measure and to understand, partly because it is often embedded within the trade of manufactured goods.

CPA Canada engages Canadian officials on all free trade negotiations, and has found negotiators to be very receptive to input from the profession. However, the more depth and detail we can bring to that input, the more likely it is to result in positive outcomes in Canada’s trade agreements.

CPA Canada has consulted the large accounting firms for input on NAFTA, but to ensure that our advice to government reflects the full diversity of the profession, we are seeking input from other CPAs, particularly CPAs working in goods-producing businesses, in small accounting practices or providing consulting services to cross-border clients. Understanding trade issues from these different perspectives is critical to ensuring that all sectors of the economy gain from trade agreements.

For example, the NAFTA provision that is perhaps of most importance to professional services providers is the chapter on temporary entry for business persons—the labour mobility provisions that resulted in the TN visa for professionals. Both CPA Canada and the government appreciate how important this is to Canadian businesses and professionals, but we would like to understand more about why it is important and how it is being used. What occupations in your organization need temporary entry to the United States and why? How important are these provisions to professionals in your U.S.-based parent or subsidiary? From your experiences, how are these provisions being interpreted by border officials? How can the processes be improved to reduce delays and uncertainties? This level of detail leads to a much more nuanced negotiating agenda and, hopefully, a more effective agreement.

If your business or practice depends on trade with the U.S. or Mexico, help us to understand the implications of NAFTA. Please take a moment to share your views—in confidence—with CPA Canada’s Government Relations team. While the current NAFTA negotiations may be of most urgency, comments on Canada’s other free trade negotiations are also welcome and appreciated.