Twenty years of trade: Canadians solidly support CETA in 2014; soundly opposed NAFTA in 1993

Twenty years of trade: Canadians solidly support CETA in 2014; soundly opposed NAFTA in 1993




Two decades after Angus Reid Global first asked Canadians their opinions about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the trade pact between Canada, the US and Mexico is still dividing Canadians.

However, they are more accepting of CETA, the proposed trade deal between Canada and the European Union. These are the results of public opinion surveys commissioned and conducted by Angus Reid Global.

The surveys asked Canadian adults their views in 1993 and 2014 about NAFTA, and about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in 2014. A majority (58%) opposed NAFTA two decades ago, while support for CETA is the majority view (68%) now.

Opinions on CETA:

Nearly seven-in-ten Canadians (68%) say they either strongly (25%) or moderately (43%) support CETA, the yet-to-be-concluded trade deal between Canada and the European Union. Just over one-in-ten (11%) either moderately (7%) or strongly (4%) oppose the pact.

A significant number of Canadians don’t offer an opinion in regards to CETA. In 1993, four per cent of Canadians responded that they were “unsure” about NAFTA. This is five times higher (22%) for CETA, reflecting the lack of public detail about this yet-to-be concluded agreement.

NAFTA: then and now

In 1993, the 58 per cent of Canadians surveyed were either strongly or moderately opposed to NAFTA. Of note, the ratio of strong opposition (39%) over moderate opposition (19%) was 2:1. By contrast, 39 per cent said they were either moderately or strongly supportive of the trade pact between Canada, the US and Mexico. Here, moderate support (26%) doubled strong support (13%).

Just over twenty years later, Canadians are more evenly divided on the benefits and/or harm caused by NAFTA. One-third (34%) say the trade pact has benefitted this country, and about the same number (31%) say it has hurt Canada. Slightly more respondents (35%) say it hasn’t had an impact on the country one way or the other.

Views are more polarized when analyzed by age. Canadians aged 18-34 are nearly twice as likely to point to the benefits of the trade deal as middle aged and older Canadians; middle aged and older Canadians are more likely to say NAFTA has hurt the country.


Regardless of their views on individual trade agreements, just over half (54%) of Canadians say their nation is “falling behind other countries” when it comes to international competitiveness, while 46 per cent say Canada is “keeping up with other countries and competing as well as we should be”. This national sentiment is generally mirrored regionally in BC, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Respondents in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba hold the inverse view.

Preferred Trading Partners:

When asked which countries or regions Canada should develop closer trade ties to in the future, Canadians put the EU, US and China at the top of their list (37%, 36% and 34% respectively), followed by India (18%), South and Central America (16%) and South East Asia (12%).

Respondents from British Columbia and the western provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) were more inclined to look east to Asia Pacific trading partners. Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario respondents preferred the Americas and European countries as trading partners.

Click here for detailed provincial results, charts, tables and methodology