Experts say most small Canadian companies not ready to take advantage of CETA


While some Canadian companies are eager to boost exports to Europe, small firms that make up the vast majority of businesses lack the global ambition to take advantage of CETA, according to Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.

Few of these companies export and are probably not ready for increased access to the 16.5 trillion euro economy, the association's senior vice-president Matthew Wilson says.

"While steps have been made, there's not enough companies going global and doing international business,'' he says.

Governments of all stripes have been working for years to encourage businesses to harness their export potential.

Yet, only about 40,000 of Canada's one million small- and medium-sized businesses are exporters and just 10,000 of them export outside the United States.

Craig Alexander, chief economist for the Conference Board of Canada, says it's been a challenge to convince these companies to step up to the plate.

He hopes a pact like the Canada-Europe trade agreement, ratified Wednesday by the European Parliament, will raise awareness among Canadian businesses about the potential for more trade and investment in Europe.

"We need to encourage them to take advantage of those opportunities," says Alexander.

He says CETA won't be a "game changer" for the Canadian economy, but he expects the elimination of tariffs will gradually lead to $1.4 billion more exports by 2023.

"I think CETA will help facilitate trade and investment, but the impact is going to be felt incrementally over a long period of time."

Alberto Wareham of Icewater Seafoods isn't waiting.

The Newfoundland-based cod seller, who already sells 90% of his catch to Europe, says he's ready to sell more fish once tariffs fall and the species continues its path to recovery.

He estimates the elimination of a 7.5% tariff on frozen cod will save $1 million a year even before higher tariffs on fresh and smoked cod are gradually eliminated. Additional volumes will be directed to the European market.

Seafood is expected to be one of the winners from the trade deal, along with various manufacturing sectors, commodities and services such as engineering and construction.

Wareham says not all companies or seafood products have the marketing infrastructure in place to take advantage of the increased access. But, Bruce Chapman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Prawn Producers, says most seafood producers are prepared to adjust and redirect exports from other countries to Europe.

Several large Canadian companies say they are looking forward to new business opportunities and labour mobility rules that will ease access to skilled workers.


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