Did you know?

Since NAFTA came into effect, Canada-U.S. merchandise trade has more than doubled while trade between Mexico and the U.S. has more than quadrupled.

North American Free Trade Agreement

A number of NAFTA institutions work to ensure smooth implementation and day-to-day oversight of the Agreement’s provisions.

Free Trade Commission

  • Made up of ministerial representatives from the NAFTA partners.
  • Supervises the implementation and further elaboration of the Agreement and helps resolve disputes arising from its interpretation.
  • Oversees the work of the NAFTA committees, working groups, and other subsidiary bodies.

NAFTA Coordinators

  • Senior trade department officials designated by each country.
  • Responsible for the day-to-day management of NAFTA implementation.

NAFTA Working Groups and Committees

  • Over 30 working groups and committees have been established to facilitate trade and investment and to ensure the effective implementation and administration of NAFTA.
  • Key areas of work include trade in goods, rules of origin, customs, agricultural trade and subsidies, standards, government procurement, investment and services, cross-border movement of business people, and alternative dispute resolution.

NAFTA Secretariat

  • Made up of a “national section” from each member country.
  • Responsible for administering the dispute settlement provisions of the Agreement and for administering dispute resolution processes under Chapter 14, Chapter 19 and Chapter 20. Also has certain responsibilities related to the Chapter 11 dispute settlement provisions concerning investment.
  • Maintains a court-like registry relating to panel, committee, and tribunal proceedings.
  • Maintains a tri-national website containing up-to-date information on past and current disputes.  

Commission for Labor Cooperation

  • Created to promote cooperation on labor matters among NAFTA members and the effective enforcement of domestic labor law.
  • Consists of a Council of Ministers (comprising the labor ministers from each country) and a Secretariat, which provides administrative, technical, and operational support to the Council and implements an annual work program. Departments responsible for labor in each of the three countries serve as domestic implementation points.  
  • For more information, please visit www.naalc.org.

Commission for Environmental Cooperation

  • Established to further cooperation among NAFTA partners in implementing the environmental side accord to NAFTA and to address environmental issues of continental concern, with particular attention to the environmental challenges and opportunities presented by continent-wide free trade.
  • Consists of a Council (comprising the environment ministers from each country), a Joint Public Advisory Committee (a 15-member, independent volunteer body that provides advice and public input to Council on any matter within the scope of the environmental accord), and a Secretariat (which provides administrative, technical, and operational support).
  • For more information on topics that have been reviewed by the Council, please visit www.cec.org/council.

NAFTA Background

In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a state-of-the-art market-opening agreement, came into force. Since then, NAFTA has systematically eliminated most tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and investment between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. By establishing a strong and reliable framework for investment, NAFTA has also helped create the environment of confidence and stability required for long-term investment. NAFTA was preceded by the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

For details about NAFTA’s impact on North Americans, please see Results: North Americans Are Better Off After 15 Years of NAFTA..

NAFTA ~ Chronology of Events

  • June 10, 1990: Canada, the U.S., and Mexico agree to pursue a free trade agreement
  • February 5, 1991: NAFTA negotiations begin.
  • December 17, 1992: NAFTA is signed by leaders from Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.
  • August 1993: Additional side agreements on labor and the environment are negotiated.
  • January 1, 1994: NAFTA enters into force

The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

Negotiations toward a free trade agreement between the United States and Canada began in 1985. Sixteen months later, the two nations came together and agreed to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA). It was a historic agreement that placed Canada and the United States at the forefront of trade liberalization.

Key elements of the Agreement included the elimination of tariffs and the reduction of many non-tariff barriers to trade. The FTA was also among the first trade agreements to address trade in services. It also included a dispute settlement mechanism for the fair and expeditious resolution of trade disagreements, and established a ground-breaking system for the binational review of trade remedy determinations, thereby providing an alternative to domestic judicial review.

In practical terms, Canada and the United States agreed to remove bilateral border measures on traded goods, which included the removal of tariffs on goods such as meat products, fruits and vegetables, beverages, processed foods, live animals, wine, clothing and textiles, fuels, electrical goods and machinery.

Canada-U.S. FTA ~ Chronology of Events

  • September 26, 1985: Canada proposes a free trade agreement with the United States.
  • October 4, 1987: Substantive negotiations conclude and agreement is reached on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
  • January 2 1988: The Agreement is signed by leaders from Canada and the United States.
  • January 1, 1989: The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement enters into force.