Does Canada’s Foreign Trade Policy Give Innovating Canadian Firms a Competitive Edge Internationally?

CIGI Paper No. 214

May 15, 2019

In recent years, Canada has adopted the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). Like other modern international trade agreements, CETA, the CPTPP and the CUSMA include protections for innovators’ profits and technologies in the form of intellectual property rights (IPRs) regulations. These trade agreements will have a first-order impact on the volume and composition of trade in goods and innovation with sensitive intellectual property (IP) in Canada, as well as having an impact on global welfare distribution. But is Canada’s membership in these agreements good for Canadian firms looking to compete globally? This paper begins with a review of the IP protections instituted through recent trade deals involving Canada. It discusses the nature and scope of Canada’s IP obligations under CETA, the CPTPP and the CUSMA and explains how these obligations fit within the current Canadian legal framework. The changes in the standards of IPRs under these agreements will have a first-order impact on the volume and composition of trade in IP-sensitive goods, innovation and global welfare distribution and so deserve thorough debate. The paper then proceeds with a broader discussion of the reasons to include IP provisions in international trade agreements and the rationale for international coordination of the IPRs policy. Next, the paper discusses how IP provisions in trade agreements limit the freedom to use IP policy to promote national interests, while acknowledging that the various IP obligations are counterbalanced by several flexibilities, including the right to establish local exhaustion policies. The paper concludes with policy recommendations.

Part of Series

CIGI Papers Series

CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.

About the Authors

Olena Ivus is a senior fellow at CIGI, where she contributes expertise on the interface between Canada’s domestic innovation and international trade.