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Canada International Free Trade Agreements

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Canada International Free Trade Agreements (FTA) are important international trade agreements signed by Canada which have been created to facilitate business and services among the signatory countries. They cover trade in goods, services and investments and contain provisions to facilitate, on a reciprocal basis, temporary entry for business persons, allowing each party to impose a visa on the citizens of the other party. The Free Trade Agreements grant temporary entry to four categories of business persons:

  • Business Visitors
  • Professionals
  • Intra-company Transferees and
  • Traders and Investors.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement and the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement are examples of FTAs. Following the requirements of these agreements, Canadian employers are exempt from applying for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) before hiring temporarily a foreign worker from those countries.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

NAFTA is an agreement signed by the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States that came into force on January 1, 1994. This trilateral trade bloc is the largest in the world and applies to four categories of business people:

  • business visitors,
  • professionals,
  • intra-company transferees,
  • traders and investors.

Professionals must be qualified to work in one of the more than 60 professions listed in the Appendix 1603.D.1 of Chapter 16 of NAFTA and must have pre-arranged employment with a Canadian enterprise in an occupation that matches their qualification. Consequently, Mexican and American citizens are allowed to apply for work permit from abroad, at a Port of Entry (POE) or inside Canada if they have been authorized to enter Canada as temporary residents, as well as if they comply with some requirements about their profession, minimum education and work experience. Initial work permits can be granted for up to three years. However, NAFTA cannot be used as a means to remain in Canada permanently. Under NAFTA, Canadian employers are exempt from applying for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) before hiring temporarily a foreign worker from those countries.

General Agreement on Trade in Service (GATS)

GATS is a treaty of the World Trade Organization (WTO) created to extend the multilateral trading system to the service sector. It came into force on January 1995 and was signed by 153 countries. This treaty applies to three categories of business people:

  • business visitors,
  • professionals and
  • intra company transferees.

GATS professionals must have the necessary academic credentials and professional qualifications recognized by the professional association of Canada. For this reason, Canada has committed to make it easier for those professionals to access the Canadian labour market in a short-term entry, considering a limited list of professionals employed by service providers of Member nations, in those service sectors to which Canada has made commitments. Their occupations are divided into two groups:

  1. Engineer, Agrologists, Architects, Forestry Professionals, Geomatics Professionals and Land Surveyors; and
  2. Foreign Legal Consultants, Urban Planners and Senior Computer Specialists.

The second group are subject to additional requirements. Furthermore, the time limit imposed is a maximum of three months or 90 consecutive days within a twelve-month period. There are no extensions of this period. Through GATS, Canadian employers are exempt from applying for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) before hiring temporarily a foreign worker from those countries.

Canada-Chile (CCFTA)

This International Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Chile is similar to NAFTA. Their basic provisions remain the same. However, there are a number of minor differences, essentially concerning two of the categories of business persons: a) Business Visitors and b) Professionals. The rules for intra-company transferees and Traders/Investors are the same.Like the NAFTA, Appendix K-03.I.1 of the CCFTA, which supports the Business Visitor category, does not provide an exhaustive list. No new activities were added to it, but some activities were removed to reflect this bilateral agreement. Also, the CCFTA list of professionals is exhaustive and compares to the GATS for the following professions: architect, engineer, forester, land surveyor, lawyer and urban planner. In addition, the requirements applicable to NAFTA professionals were retained and continue to apply for the Chilean professions. However, for 14 of the professions, Chilean minimum education requirements and alternative credentials, such as the Chilean University Title, were added as alternatives to the requirements which are set out in NAFTA, in order to reflect the Chilean educational system.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

The International Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Peru was signed in 2008 and became effective on August 1, 2009. It is similar to NAFTA, however, there are a number of differences, among them, the inclusion of the permanent residents, not only citizens, of each country in the Canada-Peru FTA. Other significant differences can be seen on the Appendix G, sections 2.2, 2.6, 2.7, 3.2 and 4.