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Sharing Power: The Case for Public Consultations on Trade

  • Mohsen al Attar (a1) and Miriam Clouthier (a2)

Since the 1960s, public consultation has emerged as an important democratic tool, allowing governments to inform, debate, and learn from the general public. Since the 1980s, international trade agreements have wielded significant influence over domestic law making, as an ever more ‘comprehensive’ set of topics is regulated via treaty. In Canada, these two trends have yet to meet. Neither the public nor Parliament is involved in trade policy making, raising concerns about the democratic legitimacy of expansive trade agreements. Through the lens of the recent Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), this article examines whether trade law’s consultation practices can be aligned with those of other federal government departments. We identify five key values that make consultations successful—diversity, education, commitment, accountability, and transparency—and consider the viability of their inclusion in trade consultations.


Depuis les années 1960, les consultations publiques sont devenues un important outil de démocratie, permettant aux gouvernements de débattre d’enjeux, d’informer le public et de s’informer eux-mêmes auprès du public. Depuis les années 1980, les accords commerciaux internationaux ont infléchi les processus législatifs nationaux, alors que les sujets couverts par ces accords deviennent toujours plus nombreux et divers. Au Canada, ces deux tendances n’ont toujours pas convergé. Ni le public ni le Parlement ne participent au façonnement des politiques commerciales, mettant en doute la légitimité démocratique des accords commerciaux pourtant vastes. Par l’entremise du récent accord Canada-Union Européenne (UE) (l’Accord économique et commercial global, ou AECG), l’article examine si les pratiques de consultation adoptées par les ministères peuvent s’appliquer au droit commercial. L’on cerne cinq conditions du succès des consultations – diversité, information, engagement, reddition de comptes, transparence – et l’on étudie leur aptitude à être intégrées aux consultations commerciales.

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Canadian Journal of Law and Society / La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société
  • ISSN: 0829-3201
  • EISSN: 1911-0227
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-law-and-society-la-revue-canadienne-droit-et-societe
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