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Against NAFTA backdrop, CPA Canada renews trilateral MRA with U.S. and Mexico

Spectre of losing labour mobility looms large despite cross-border career opportunities

Author: Colin Ellis

TORONTO, Nov. 1, 2017 – The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) renewed a trilateral Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) today with its counterparts in Mexico and the United States. 

The five-year agreement was announced at a ceremony during the 110th Annual Meeting of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and signed by NASBA, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) , Comité Mexicano para la Práctica Internacional de la Contaduría, and Instituto Mexicano de Contadores Públicos, A.C. 

According to CPA Canada, the MRA provides for increased recognition of qualified professional accountants and specifies the criteria by which one body's members are eligible to obtain the credential of the other. The agreement was first signed between the Canadian and U.S. accounting bodies in 1991 and was signed by Mexican counterparts as a trilateral agreement in 2002. 

Under the MRA, professional accountants in all three countries are able to access accelerated pathways to professional credentials, thus reducing barriers to cross-border career opportunities. 

“This agreement demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the Canadian CPA profession to help advance labour mobility through international recognition and efficient integration into the workforce," says Joy Thomas, president and CEO, CPA Canada.  "Streamlining the process of attracting and retaining top-end talent is increasingly important to achieving economic growth and social well-being in Canada.” 

The MRA comes against the backdrop of increasing anxiety over NAFTA negotiations and the spectre of losing professional visas. NAFTA, says Andy J. Semotiuk, an immigration lawyer with Pace Law Firm, “has facilitated travel with people who are highly skilled and qualified and it’s been a major positive impact on the economies of both countries.” 

Semotiuk says, however, that the “mercurial” Donald Trump could change his mind or get frustrated and tear up the agreement.” Indeed, Chris Smillie, a principal at Tactix, an Ottawa-based government relations firm, told Canadian Accountant: “I’m nervous and hopeful that the labour mobility provisions will remain. But I think that without significant concessions from Canada and Mexico that will be challenging.” 

“The labour mobility provisions in NAFTA have worked well for Canadian professional accountants and have benefitted businesses on both sides of the border,” said Tobin Lambie, principal of strategic communications branding and public affairs with CPA Canada, in a recent interview. 

“It is critical to maintain the temporary entry rules that currently exist in NAFTA and CPA Canada would like to see the list of recognized professionals upgraded to reflect the jobs of our modern economy,” added Lambie. 

“Business is increasingly international in scope, which requires CPAs to be more global-minded than ever before,” said AICPA president and CEO, Barry Melancon at today’s announcement.” Indeed, CPA Canada is in the process of renegotiating legacy agreements and exploring new agreements with international accounting bodies, under the new Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) banner.

Colin Ellis is editor-in-chief of Canadian Accountant. Canadian Accountant logo

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