European companies have been fast out of the gate to take advantage of the free trade deal between the European Union and Canada, prompting questions about what more can be done to spur Canadian firms to diversify their foreign trade.
European exports of merchandise and goods and services have seen double digit increases, outpacing Canada’s exports to Europe in the months after the trade pact with 28 nations of the European Union — known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement — took effect on Sept. 21, 2017.
In addition to eliminating most tariffs, the pact also liberalized trade in services such as financial services, telecommunications, energy and transport, and give companies access to bid on government procurement projects.
“We saw during the first year that European enterprises and European companies were more active in Canadian market,” said Peteris Ustubs, the European Union ambassador to Canada.
Ustubs speculated that European companies were “more ready to come to Canada, they were waiting for CETA to take place.”
And he believes that the prolonged trade drama with the United States during negotiations for a new North American Free Trade Agreement — known as United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the ongoing dispute over tariffs has preoccupied governments and the corporate sector.
“Last year was a very demanding year for Canadians and Canadian enterprises as NAFTA as negotiated. I think a lot of Canadian businesses were preoccupied with the outcomes, with the considerations, what NAFTA negotiations will bring and what kind of result it is going to have,” Ustubs said during a recent discussions with reporters.
“I’m sure (having) NAFTA negotiations completed will liberate the energy of Canadian businesses to look elsewhere,” he said.
But on the Canadian side, there are complaints that European barriers to trade, especially in the areas of agriculture, have impeded Canada’s ability to take advantage of the new markets.
Exports of Canadian beef, pork, grain and oil seeds are facing “significant” nontariff trade barriers, said Claire Citeau, executive director of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance.