The new trade agreement between Canada and Israel is said to put a focus on gender equality.

Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen.

Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen. Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90

The governments of Canada and Israel are expected to reveal an updated and modernized trade agreement today. The agreement is being heralded as having the potential to strengthen the economic relations between the two countries.

The agreement, set to be announced today in Montreal by Canadian Minister of International Trade François-Philippe Champagne, will include new rules on gender, labor and environment and social responsibility for corporations.

For the first time in the joint economic history of the two countries, it will be subject to the dispute settlement process, meaning that one country can dispute the other country’s decision if it is seen as discriminatory. The guidelines for this process are set forth by the World Trade Organization. At the same time, the process only applies on the national level only, thus excluding corporations by default.

Should one of the two nations take economic actions that are deemed to be discriminatory by the other country, the new trade agreement provides each country the chance to challenge the other. If the country at fault does not change their practices, some of the benefits outlined in the agreement could potentially be revoked.

A source told CBC that the new dispute settlement process is intended to put an emphasis on gender rights and to promote discussions about equality in the workforce.

The push for increased social responsibility by Western corporations has also been addressed in other North American countries, with this agreement being the first to act upon these goals.

The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) was first signed in 1997 as a goods-only agreement, with Canada seeking to improve access to the Israeli market for Canadian companies. Trade between the countries reached 1.7 billion last year.

This agreement comes at an especially contentious time, seeing as the US and Canda are currently in negotiations with Mexico regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). US President Donald Trump ran his presidential campaign with a heavy focus on NAFTA, claiming that it has been “a total disaster” for the United States, along with similar free trade agreements the US has signed on to over the past few years. 

The Canadian minister will make the announcement alongside Israel’s Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen.