A new, expanded Canada-Israel free trade agreement includes an unprecedented chapter on gender equality, said federal Minister of International Trade François-Philippe Champagne.
Minister Champagne, who traveled to Montreal on Monday to sign the deal with Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen, said the uniqueness of the agreement lies in an article that places the section on gender equality within the larger framework of the dispute settlement mechanism.
Messrs. Champagne and Cohen were officially to sign the agreement at the end of the day in a ceremony closed to the media.
Both governments must ratify the agreement for it to come into force.
Frontiers subject to litigation
The original agreement between Canada and Israel had been in place since January 1997. In 2017, trade between the two countries was valued at about $ 1.7 billion.
Negotiations to update the agreement began under the leadership of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2014 and were concluded under Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
The new agreement maintains a requirement that goods coming from the West Bank be labeled as coming from Israel, even though Canada does not recognize that the country controls that territory, which has been occupied since 1967.
A man from Winnipeg is challenging a decision by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 2017 that allows two wines produced in the West Bank region to be sold in Canada with the label “Product of Israel “.
According to the agreement, “Israel” refers to any territory where the customs laws of the country apply.
Mr. Champagne assured that the new agreement respected international law.
“It’s a simple issue. In international law, the way a territory is defined is the physical territory where the customs laws apply, “he explained.
“We believe the determination of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is reasonable and acceptable,” he added.
“We will learn from you”
The decision to include a chapter on gender equality was made at the initiative of Canada.
Chapter 13 states that both countries “recognize the importance of including a gendered perspective on promoting inclusive economic growth”.
“We will learn from you and implement this [gender chapter] in our upcoming free trade agreements,” Eli Cohen told the event.
“This agreement, which we will sign later, includes more than 2000 tax-free products in the food and agriculture sectors,” he said.
The agreement expands market access for both countries and includes chapters on new issues, including e-commerce and intellectual property.