Open for business: goods are still moving across the Canada-US border

Canada Publication March 25, 2020 - 1 PM ET

Q. What does the Canada-US border closure mean for trade in goods?

As a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Canada and the United States have agreed to temporarily restrict all “non-essential” travel across their border. “Non-essential” travel includes travel of individuals that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.

Both countries recognize the critical need to preserve Canada/US supply chains to ensure food, fuel, medicine and other goods continue to flow. As such, lawful cross-border trade in goods between the two countries is not affected by the restrictions on non-essential travel. In fact, Canada’s minister of public safety said last week that Canada/US trade is essential and needs to continue in these trying times.

Q. Are there any restrictions on the types of goods that can be lawfully transported across the border?

No. The border closure has not resulted in any new restrictions or export controls on the types of goods that can be transported across the Canada/US border (subject of course to normal import/export restrictions). This must be monitored going forward. 

Q. What about personnel involved in the transportation of goods?  

Travel by individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the US and Canada) will be considered “essential travel.” As long as these individuals are not exhibiting any symptoms, they will not be required to self-isolate for 14 days (as other travelers returning from international destinations have been asked to do).

Q. How long will the restrictions on “non-essential” travel remain in place?

The “non-essential” travel restrictions will remain in place until at least April 20, 2020, after which they will be reviewed by both countries. 

Q. What about my competitors in the supply chain?

As supply chains are under significant strain and Canadians are worried about the availability of goods, industry associations and governments are working to address some of these concerns. However, to the extent that competitors wish to work together, they need to be mindful of their obligations under Canadian competition law.
The Competition Bureau’s enforcement priorities during the COVID-19 outbreak are deceptive marketing practices (e.g., false or misleading claims about a product’s ability to prevent, treat or cure the virus) and collusion by competing businesses (e.g., illegal agreements among competing companies to price-fix products that are in increased demand such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper and groceries). However, compliant pro-competitive collaboration between competitors is permitted and continues to be significant in supporting the delivery of affordable goods and services.

For more information see Competition Act continuity in a time of crisis and EU enforcement priorities

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