The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) expands on the initiatives of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to create internationally agreed disciplines on government regulation of investment and trade in services. NAFTA provides wider coverage of investment and cross border trade in services than does the FTA through the broader scope of investments covered by NAFTA rules and the inclusion of additional services, such as land transportation and specialty air services. However, each country has designated a number of exclusions to the investment and services rules. In Canada's case this includes, among other measures, health and social services. In addition to the general exclusions, each NAFTA country may retain current laws and other measures that do not comply with certain rules of the NAFTA.
Such federal laws and measures are listed in the Agreement. Provinces and states have up to two years to list the measures they want to be preserved.
The good news for service firms is that the coverage of government procurement has been expanded. Canadians may bid along with American and Mexican firms on U.S. federal government and agency contracts for goods and services worth US$50,000 or more and on construction-related contract work for projects in excess of US$6.5 million. The threshold for goods and services purchases by U.S. government enterprises such as power authorities is US$250,000 and US$8 million for construction procurement. The major new agency now open to Canadians is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which contracts out millions of dollars of service work every year.
The best source of information on upcoming contracts is the Commerce Business Daily. However, firms will want to have already talked with the contracting department before the request for proposal is issued.
In order to be eligible to bid on government contracts, firms must already be registered with the particular department (and often with the particular district office of the department). There is no central registration in the United States. Once you are registered, you need to indicate in writing when you do not intend to bid on a proposal on which you have been invited to bid or you risk being dropped from the registration database.