The province’s minister of economic development, employment and infrastructure says a recent commitment made by Ontario and Quebec to “reinvigorate” their joint trade agreement will ensure central Canadian businesses remain competitive against European companies.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Québec Premier Philippe Couillard recently signed several agreements after a joint meeting of cabinet ministers. They also highlighted the importance of refreshing the Ontario-Quebec Trade and Cooperation Agreement (OQTCA) so that its procurement commitments are at least on par with those in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) by April 2015.
"The last thing we would want to do is have the CETA agreement implemented and have European companies at a competitive advantage to Ontario or Quebec companies," Brad Duguid told the Daily Commercial News.
"It's showing that Ontario companies can access opportunities in Quebec and vice versa. So it only makes sense for Ontario and Quebec to ensure that our respective businesses have access to each other's markets at least at a level equal to European countries."
The CETA agreement eliminates almost all of the tariffs between the two countries, therefore opening the market to new opportunities and investment, states the federal government. But, concerns have been voiced that this will place some companies at a disadvantage when bidding on projects.
"We have made progress, but want to go further and increase trade between Québec and Ontario. Initially, we will expand access to our respective public procurement for our suppliers in a manner that is as ambitious as we have demonstrated during negotiations with the European Union," says Couillard.
This means procurement rules in the Ontario-Quebec agreement would make Ontario and Quebec suppliers receive similar access as EU suppliers.
It ensures, "that Ontario and Quebec businesses will have at least as much access to government procurement contracts in Canada, in our sister provinces, as EU companies will have," states Wynne.
"As part of a joint declaration, we are going to be working on those internal trade issues."
The two provinces agreed to share information on regulations and best practices, explore opportunities to conduct joint trade missions for industries of mutual interest and/or to countries as well, and re-establish the OQTCA Private Sector Advisory Committee to provide insight to the ministers and identify areas for further collaboration.
"I think it's an opportunity for Ontario and Quebec to continue to build a stronger region for investment," Duguid says. "It's an indication that central Canada is capable of building a strong economy here and our jurisdictions are capable of working together."
He also says with Ontario committing $130 billion in infrastructure over the next 10 years and Quebec about $90 billion, there is little to worry about in terms of unfair competition.
"Most large infrastructure projects in Ontario and Quebec are open projects so there's a fair amount of competition for those, including a lot of the alternative financing procurement projects we do in Ontario," he says.
"I think what the stakeholders I talked to in the infrastructure field are really interested in is the aggressive amount of investment in Ontario and Quebec in infrastructure, that's what really counts for them. There's plenty of work for everybody given that level of investment."