EU trade deal will open doors for more exporters in Canada
This week saw a number of Irish businesses announce deals and partnerships in Canada, one of the world's most successful and stable economies. It was the result of a three-day trade mission, led by Minister of State Seán Canney, aimed at promoting the potential of the new Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), recently agreed between Europe and Canada.
Companies such as Monaghan-based Combilift, Clare's Tekelek and Cork-based Leading Edge group were among a number of homegrown success stories participating. The mission aimed to highlight the increasing opportunities for Irish firms in Canada. Already more than 330 Enterprise Ireland client companies are doing business there, and a significant number have a local presence. In fact, Canada is Enterprise Ireland clients' largest market outside the EU, USA and China - larger than that of Australia, Brazil, Russia, India, or Japan.
In 2016 EI client company exports to Canada grew by 7.3pc, to €282m. This builds on growth of 7pc in 2015 and of more than 14pc in 2014 - all clear evidence of Canada's growing importance for Irish companies.
Indeed, focusing on services, software, and advanced manufacturing alone, all of which are key growth sectors for the future, Canada represents the second-largest export market for Irish companies outside of Europe, after the US.
Irish firms are already succeeding in this $2trn economy which is part of the G7. They are doing this in diverse sectors such as enterprise software, e-learning, retail technologies, digital health and Internet of Things.
Now, after years of extensive negotiations between the EU and Canada, the advent of CETA opens up even greater opportunities. This landmark agreement liberalises 98pc of bilateral trade between Canada and the European Union, opening our procurement processes to each other and offering a new basis for companies to gain preferential access to each other's markets.
For Irish businesses this is good news indeed. Canada is the 10th-largest economy in the world and is ranked 22nd out of 190 countries for ease of doing business by the World Bank. The Canadian economy is forecast to grow at more than 2pc per annum in 2017 and 2018, has a growing population of more than 35 million people, and represents a positive and stable market for Irish goods and services.
Not alone was it unscathed by the global economic downturn, but it maintained a low unemployment rate, avoided a mortgage crisis and experienced no major bank failure. It's an economy that is affluent, high-tech and market-oriented, enjoys low inflation and high living standards.
And it offers good trade and investment opportunities for companies across a number of sectors. The services sector accounts for about 70pc of GDP, with significant areas including financial services, real estate, entertainment and tourism. Manufacturing has contributed significantly to GDP with aerospace and machinery industries overtaking the automobile sector in importance. Other sectors of opportunity include energy, food and drink, biotechnology, defence & security and business services.
Canada aims to invest more than CAD$180bn in infrastructure projects, including transport and green technology. What's more, it's a country that is well disposed to trade with Ireland. Relations between Ireland and Canada are based on a longstanding combination of family ties, cultural affinities and shared democratic political traditions.
Almost 4.3 million Canadians claim some Irish ancestry. For exporters, this can help a great deal in opening doors and establishing rapport. This matters, because when doing business in Canada, developing good relationships is key. Thanks to this week's trade mission, those relationships are all the stronger.
Neil Cooney is Enterprise Ireland's country manager, Canada
Sunday Indo Business