Modification - Canadian Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Support Free Trade Agreement with European Union

Modification (English only): replaces incorrect text from a previous news release re-issued in error

International Trade Minister Ed Fast thanks advisory board for its report on how small and medium-sized businesses can take advantage of a trade agreement with the European Union

(No. 356 - Modification - November 29, 2011 - 9:45 a.m.) The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today met with the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Advisory Board and received a report endorsing Canada’s efforts to pursue free trade agreements with key trading partners. The report specifically endorsed negotiations toward a Canada-EU comprehensive economic and trade agreement, which would lessen the complexities of doing business with the European Union and create new trade opportunities and jobs. A trade agreement with the European Union will help small and medium-sized businesses create jobs and economic growth for Canadian small businesses and their workers and families.

“The Advisory Board members, as representatives of Canada’s small-business sector, deserve thanks for their hard work in looking at how small and medium-sized businesses could benefit from the huge potential that a Canada-EU comprehensive economic and trade agreement offers,” said Minister Fast. “Small businesses represent 98 percent of all firms in Canada and employ nearly half of all working Canadians. So creating opportunities for small business abroad creates jobs and prosperity for Canadian small businesses and their workers and families.”

In 2008, approximately 8,350 small and medium-sized Canadian businesses were exporting to the European Union (EU), exporting nearly $16.1 billion in goods and services, or 52.7 percent of Canadian exports by value to this market.

“Small and medium-sized businesses understand the potential benefits of a trade agreement with the EU: a 20-percent boost in bilateral trade and a $12-billion annual increase to Canada’s economy, equivalent to almost 80,000 new jobs and almost $1,000 extra for the average Canadian family,” said Minister Fast. “The negotiations toward a comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the EU are at the heart of our government’s job-creating pro-trade plan.”

The Advisory Board report indicates that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Canada and in almost every industry sector support and would benefit from the development of bilateral trade agreements. Some 55 percent of businesses that responded to a survey for the report indicated they planned to increase their trading with the EU within the next three years.

“Our research, conducted with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, suggests that many Canadian SMEs would benefit from a trade agreement with Europe,” said Murad Al-Katib, Chairman of the SME Advisory Board and President and CEO of Alliance Grain Traders Inc. “A trade agreement with the EU represents an opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses to increase growth and create jobs by diversifying their exports.”

“It is encouraging to see the government taking small-business issues into account when negotiating trade agreements,” said Canadian Federation of Independent Business President Catherine Swift. “The government’s pro-trade plan will benefit not only Canadian SMEs looking to expand into new markets like Europe but also the Canadian economy as a whole.”

In less than six years, the government has opened new market opportunities by concluding free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Panama, Peru and the European Free Trade Association states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The SME Advisory Board is made up of business owners and executives from across the country, representing key sectors of the economy. The Board was created to provide advice to the minister on issues that affect small and medium-sized enterprises and their involvement in international trade.

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Rudy Husny
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway
613-992-7332

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-996-2000
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