1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Canada and the United States (U.S.) have one of the largest and most comprehensive investment relationships in the world. U.S. investors are attracted to Canada’s strong economic fundamentals, its proximity to the U.S. market, its highly skilled work force, and abundant resources. As of 2017, the U.S. had a stock of USD391 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Canada. U.S. FDI stock in Canada represents 49 percent of Canada’s total investment. Canada’s FDI stock in the U.S. totaled USD523 billion.
U.S. FDI in Canada is subject to the provisions of the Investment Canada Act (ICA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Chapter 11 of NAFTA contains provisions such as “national treatment” designed to protect cross-border investors and facilitate the settlement of investment disputes. NAFTA does not exempt U.S. investors from review under the ICA, which has guided foreign investment policy in Canada since its implementation in 1985. The ICA provides for review of large acquisitions by non-Canadian investors and includes the requirement that these investments be of “net benefit” to Canada. The ICA also has provisions for the review of investments on national security grounds. The Canadian government has blocked investments on only a few occasions.
Canada, the United States, and Mexico completed negotiations for a modernized and rebalanced NAFTA agreement on September 30, 2018. The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed by all three countries November 30, 2018 and will come into force after the completion of the domestic ratification processes by each individual member of the agreement. The agreement updates NAFTA’s provisions with respect to investment protection rules and investor-state dispute settlement procedures to better reflect U.S. priorities related to foreign investment. All Parties to the agreement have agreed to treat investors and investments of the other Parties in accordance with the highest international standards, and consistent with U.S. law and practice, while safeguarding each Party’s sovereignty and promoting domestic investment.
Although foreign investment is a key component of Canada’s economic development, restrictions remain in key sectors. Under the Telecommunications Act, Canada maintains a 46.7 percent limit on foreign ownership of voting shares for a Canadian telecom services provider. However, a 2012 amendment exempts foreign telecom carriers with less than 10 percent market share from ownership restrictions in an attempt to increase competition in the sector. In May 2018, Canada eased its foreign ownership restrictions in the aviation sector, which increased foreign ownership limits of Canadian commercial airlines to 49 percent from 25 percent. Investment in cultural industries also carries restrictions, including a provision under the ICA that foreign investment in book publishing and distribution must be compatible with Canada’s national cultural policies and be of “net benefit” to Canada. Canada is open to investment in the financial sector, but barriers remain in retail banking.