The Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada – West has been granted an extension of the project “The Enhanced EU-Canada Economic Partnership: Challenges and Opportunities for SMEs” for a further five months in the hope of a speedy conclusion of the CETA negotiations.
Over the last year and a half the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada – West has organized 27 events across Canada and the EU : in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, St. John’s Newfoundland, Milan, London, The Hague, Dusseldorf, Lyon, and today in Brussels.
Some events have been sector specific, focussed on the environment, aerospace, agriculture, energy, trade & investment and regulatory cooperation, and were held in conjunction with international trade fairs, where we brought together EU and Canadian companies to discuss the state of their industry, and how CETA will facilitate cooperation and exchanges.
We organized a series of seminars right across Canada, on how Canadian SMEs can access the EU procurement process, using professional trainers from the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Brussels.
We have organized major conferences in the principal Canadian cities and EU-Canada Days spanning an entire day in Europe. We celebrated Europe Day on May 9th this year in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, with the launch of an EU Business Guide, which we intend to update with specifics once CETA is signed.
In addition, other important components of the project were a media campaign, and an interactive website.
By organizing activities across Canada and in the EU, by diversifying the typology of activities, in order to reach the various segments of our target groups and to address specific issues areas relating to the EU-Canada relationship, a key result has been increased visibility in Canada of the European Union and in particular a greater awareness of the CETA negotiations.
Our goal was to engage the business communities across Canada, and in the EU, in debate and dialogue around CETA, and on the benefits and challenges the new agreement will present to SMEs.
Following are some of the results that have been achieved.
Firstly, before the start of CETA negotiations, Canada and the EU already shared strong trading bonds. Considering trade in manufactured goods, in 2011 Canada was the EU’s 11th most important trading partner, accounting for 1.8% of the EU’s total external trade. In the same year the EU was Canada’s second most important trading partner, after the U.S., with around 12% of Canada’s total external trade. Trade in services is an important area of the EU-Canada trade relationship. The value of bilateral trade in services between the two partners amounted to €23.5 billion in 2011. Over three quarters of the increase in FDI inflows into Canada in 2011 originated from European Union sources. Flows from the EU into Canada rose and were $161 billion in 2011. The Canadian stock of FDI in Europe was $173 billion in 2011.
These statistics notwithstanding, many studies characterize the EU-Canada trade relationship as “under-performing”, and dominated by major players in highly concentrated sectors. For SMEs, however, the EU was frequently perceived as a market which presented difficulties, in identifying entry strategies and reliable partners, and many continued to be over-reliant on the US market, with often unfortunate results, as witnessed during the economic crisis.
Through incrementally building on activities since 2009, we have seen a demonstrable increase in interest and engagement, on the part of the business communities in Canada towards Europe, and vice-versa.
Even in the absence of any specifics about the agreement yet to be finalized, SMEs in Canada and the EU are better informed about the opportunities for increased cooperation and bilateral exchanges, as a result of the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement.
This can be gauged by the fact that, over the course of the project, more than 1,800 companies have attended events and the project website has been viewed by more than 16,000 unique visitors – average visit of 4.5 minutes – seeking information on CETA and the Canada-EU relationship, and to view videos of the most important events.
Secondly, an undoubted factor in the success of this project has been the utilization of a flexible network of partners and resources in Canada and the EU, to provide privileged access to current information, contacts and business opportunities.
The basis for this network is the system of Italian Chambers of Commerce around the world. At some events, guests have expressed a certain bewilderment that an Italian Chamber of Commerce, located on the far flung Pacific coast of Canada, was able to organize events in Toronto or Montreal, not to mention in The Hague or London.
It was made possible by a highly entrepreneurial network of Italian Chambers of Commerce, which provided professionalism, reliability and local knowledge that time and again has proved invaluable.
And looking forward : this has been a hugely satisfying project to execute, but to have it end while CETA remains tantalizingly close, but as yet unsigned, led us to request the European Commission for an extension of the project, for a further five months. So we intend to organize more events after the signing of CETA, when the specifics will be known, and, as many predict, the standard will be set for 21st century trade agreements.
We also intend to continue activities beyond the signing of CETA, and are exploring funding possibilities with the Canadian Federal and provincial governments, for a programme of outreach initiatives focussing on the four western Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, and promoting partnership opportunities with European companies in collaboration with our network of associates here.
We would like to acknowledge the financial contribution of the European Commission to all the project activities. We are immensely grateful to the Commission for entrusting us with this ambitious project.
The ICCC Staff