Trade groups applaud UK-Canada FTA talks

Business groups on both sides of the Atlantic have welcomed the launch of negotiations aimed at achieving a comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and Canada.

Trade Groups
With trade between the two nations currently governed by a limited, continuity agreement following Brexit, the UK's International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Canadian Minister for International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development Mary Ng formally started the talks in Ottawa.

Ms Trevelyan said she believed a new deal - covering such areas as innovation, digital, data, the environment and women’s economic empowerment - could be reached within a year.

UK and Canada capable of growing a strong trade relationship

She said the UK's trade with Canada was worth more than £19 billion in 2020 and that there was "huge potential" to strengthen and grow trade between the two countries.

"We want a new deal for the 21st century – one that will boost our thriving services sector, promote higher standards of living and act as a beacon for others to follow in its world-leading commitments on climate change and women’s economic empowerment," she added.

The government in London cited the example of a deal that included the adoption of digital trading systems, which would make trade cheaper, faster and more secure for businesses.

"This could see more than 10,000 UK small and medium-sized businesses benefiting from lower barriers to trade such as simplified paperwork, encouraging more businesses to start trading with Canada," the statement said.
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The UK has already reached post-Brexit FTAs with Australia and New Zealand and, like those deals, the one British sector with reservations over a new agreement with Canada is the agriculture sector, which fears the import of cheap, hormone-treated beef.

Other sectors of the economy in both countries, however, have applauded the opening of talks and the opportunities a comprehensive trade deal could offer.

Negotiations prove a positive impact

Martin McTague, national chair of the UK's Federation of Small Businesses, said the launch of negotiations marked "a really important step forward".

He added: "A third of our members who export see Canada as an important market, and they’ll be hoping that these discussions result in an ambitious free trade agreement that enables more small businesses from both sides of the Atlantic to realise the benefits of trading internationally.

"A dedicated SME chapter should be placed at the heart of any future agreement to ensure that small businesses can make best use of the FTA’s provisions."

William Bain, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, pointed to a recent survey of more than 1,000 UK businesses that found Canada was in the top four global markets of interest to smaller exporters.

“These negotiations provide the opportunity to make some improvements to the Canada-UK continuity agreement - in areas like digital trade and to also boost trade facilitation measures through Single Customs Windows," Mr Bain said.

“We also see clear benefits in retaining the main thrust of the existing rules of origin allowing for the flexibility of including EU content in goods traded between the UK and Canada, which have preferential tariff treatment.”

Dennis Darby, president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) organisation, described the negotiations as "a once-in-a-generation opportunity" to create a framework that would lead to growth for the manufacturing industries in both countries.

“Manufacturers strongly believe that our negotiators should strive to craft an ambitious agreement that would set the standard for all future trade agreements. If we can do that, I think it will be easier for our companies to use the agreement to grow their businesses and trade,” said Mr Darby.

His British counterpart - Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK - said that achieving future preferential trade arrangements with Canada would ensure the manufacturing sector benefited from future positive flows of goods and services.

"At a moment, when confidence and certainty needs to return to global trade, opportunities to work with Canada to boost environment technologies and skills, seek strong bilateral commitments to investment and re-alignment in supply chains as well as reducing burdens on business in the trade of goods and services must be taken through these negotiations with a key trading partner,” he added.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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