Karen Everett in her article “Trade and the Canadian North” provided a brief overview of Canada’s current free trade agreements with its Arctic partners, recent statistics for Canada’s three territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut) in relation to merchandise trade with the US, Alaska, and the other Arctic states, and raises some challenges and opportunities to further the conversation on Arctic trade. We discuss her article here, using her statements, so as to have a look at Northern Canada trade and commerce.

Trade negotiations

Gauthier and Lapointe in their work in 2011 noted that provinces and territories had consultations with the federal government during trade negotiations. From then on any trade agreement for the North had to be negotiated through Ottawa.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is currently being renegotiated for the first time since its implementation in 1994. The Agreement would stimulate economic growth and facilitate trading of goods and services between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, as Global Affairs Canada noted in their paper in 2017 and 2016.

Canada has already engaged with six of the seven other Arctic states in different free trade agreements: Canada-European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) with Iceland and Norway; the Canada-European Union: Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Greenland/Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. The only Arctic country that Canada currently does not have a free trade agreement with is Russia (Source: Global Affairs Canada, 17 November 2017). Canada and its Arctic partners had also signed a number of World Trade Organization agreements that facilitated the rules of international, free and other trades.

A significant amount of goods are traded back and forth between Canada and the US (Data source: Statistics Canada, 16 February 2018.  Merchandise trade includes extractive natural resources for domestic export.). Yukon, maintains the strongest trade relationship with the US, Alaska in particular, due to the territory’s proximity to the US/Alaskan border and the port in Skagway, AK. The Northwest Territories (NWT) has the second largest trade economy with the US/Alaska, although it is smaller and only consists of exports. Nunavut, though, had minimal trade relationship with the US.


There are some things that can be done to help the territories grow their international trade, be it with the US or other Arctic states, such as transportation infrastructure, (road, air and maritime) and a solid regional economic development plan wherein the territories gain more control over their economies through the process of devolution from the federal government (Government of Canada, 13 April 2015). The Government of Nunavut had confirmed in their paper in 2014 and 2013 that Yukon and the NWT had signed the devolution agreement, with Nunavut following suit. This move opened the opportunities of trade with other Canadian provinces and aided in the economic development of the territories. Karen Everett noted that the devolution process would benefit best those in the North, and trade negotiations would be more fruitful if all levels of government, as well as Indigenous governments, take an active part in consultations and also negotiations.

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