By BERNIE BELLAN
Speaking in front of an audience of businesspeople from the Winnipeg community at large and members of the Jewish community at the Asper Campus on Monday, June 24, Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification, Jim Carr, described the many benefits that will ensue as a result of the newly modernized Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.
Now having been signed into law by Parliament, the new agreement will has received Royal Assent, and is about to implemented by both countries.
Carr, who is the Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre, noted that “the economies of Canada and Israel are built on innovative and thriving business cultures that value the ingenuity and creativity of our entrepreneurs, which is why Canada remains committed to strengthening its economic partnership with Israel. Together, we will seize the opportunities to expand markets and create jobs for hard-working Canadians.”
Since the original Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement was first signed in 1997, Carr said, “Canada-Israel bilateral merchandise trade has more than tripled, reaching $1.9 billion in 2018.
“And while Manitoba’s share of Canadian trade with Israel may be small, it has seen recent growth with an increase of 35% of merchandise exports between 2017 and 2018,” he added.
In a fact sheet handed out by members of Carr’s staff, it was noted that bilateral trade between Canada and Israel includes:
• Merchandise exports to Israel: $451 million (2017)
• Merchandise imports from Israel: $1.3 billion (2017)
• Services exports to Israel: $406 million (2017)
• Services imports from Israel: $351 million (2017)
The fact sheet also noted that: “Israel, with a GDP of $454.5 billion, is the most competitive economy in the Middle East and ranks 20th globally on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (2018). Its economy is growing at a higher than average rate compared to other OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Develop-ment) countries (3.5% compared to 2.5% in 2017).
“Science and technology are significant drivers of the Israeli economy. Israel invests more heavily in research and development than any other country in the world,” the fact sheet stated.
“Israel’s highly skilled workforce and innovation strengths have attracted significant investment from abroad. Foreign multinational corporations, including Canadian firms, have established more than 400 research and development centres in Israel.”
A member of Canada’s trade mission in Israel, Stanley Gomes, also spoke to Canada’s trade relationship with Israel. Gomes noted that “70%” of the food Israelis eat is imported from other countries. On top of that, on average, Israelis pay 19% more for food products than the OECD average .
Later, during a question and answer session moderated by Jewish Federation President Laurel Malkin (whose term, by the way doesn’t end until December, despite my premature description of Malkin as the “outgoing’ president in our last issue), asked Carr why the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) needed to be modernized?
Carr answered: “It was old. Just as it’s time to refresh the WTO (World Trade Agreement), it was time to refresh CIFTA.”
There were four specific areas which Carr said needed modernizing in the agreement: e-commerce, the roles of women and members of the LGBTQ2+ community, and cyber security.
Asked by Malkin what Canada can do to help Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Carr said that the government “will share the cost” of an SME that wants to expand its markets, by paying for instance, for companies to participate in trade shows overseas.
“Canada and Israel have long been connected through the power of people-to-people ties, a shared commitment to democracy and a friendship that started 70 years ago when Israel became a nation-state,” Carr said. “It continues to grow with each passing year.
“Jewish people have been in Canada since 1759” Carr pointed out, “and now our community of more than 350,000 continues to contribute impressively to our national mosaic,” he said.
“In many ways Israel reminds me of Canada,” Carr added. “It opened its doors to immigrants from all over the world – immigrants who have shared values. Those immigrants have contributed in so many ways to the development of both countries. And, speaking of Winnipeg specifically, as a member of the Arab-Jewish Dialogue, I want to make mention of the contribution Palestinian immigrants have also made to Winnipeg.”
There is an “opportunity for citizens to share in the prosperity in both countries,” Carr said, and (referring specifically to Israel), “the most abundant benefit of prosperity is peace.”
“As our country’s first Jewish Minister with an international focus, I am proud of the partnership between our two countries, and will seek to continue to deepen the ties between us with each passing year,” Carr stated.
“Canada and Israel committed to a new and forward-looking framework for trade that expands meaningful access to each other’s markets and introduces chapters on gender, labour, environmental protections, and support for small and medium-sized enterprises,” Carr said.
“I am pleased to say the legislation for the modernization of CIFTA passed Parliament and received Royal Assent on May 27, 2019. We anticipate bringing the modernized deal into force very soon,” Carr added..
“Once in force,” Carr explained, “close to 100 percent of all current Canadian agriculture, agri-food and seafood exports to Israel will benefit from some form of preferential tariff treatment.
“This means that Canadian exports like cranberries, baked goods, animal feed, fish and seafood all stand to benefit from this modernized agreement.
“But it doesn’t just help traditional exports. This new trade agreement includes nine new chapters.
“The modernized CIFTA,” Carr pointed out, “includes updates to the dispute settlement mechanism, market access for goods, institutional provisions to enhance transparency, and rules of origin to streamline access to preferential tariff treatment.”
Carr explained that when he was appointed Minister of International Trade Diversification, most people thought that his mandate was “to diversify trade so that Canada would not have to rely upon the US for most of its exports,” but “diversification,” he noted, “refers not only to diversifying trade in goods and services, it refers as well to a ‘diversity’ of people becoming involved in trade, including women, Indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ2 community.
“I have visited Israel many times but last September was my first trip as Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification,” Carr said.
“While I was there I was thrilled to address two organizations supporting LGBTQ2 businesses that are crucial for our Israeli and Canadian shared values.
“I was impressed by the commitment to hold the world to a higher standard and lead the way to change the face and culture of technology.
“I also had to opportunity to visit Ramallah and launch the Palestinian-Canadian Business Council, which has since brought two delegations of Palestinian businesspeople to Canada.
“Our government is working diligently and proactively to help Canadian business access new markets, new customers, and create new jobs.”
Canada has “950 trade commissioners working for Canada in 56 different countries,” Carr said.
As one of those trade commissioners, Gomes noted that his role is not just to encourage trade in goods and services, but in “innovation” as well. “Everything we’re doing these days is related to the technology of the future, to artificial intelligence. The majority of the new companies coming here (to Canada) from Israel are all about innovation.”
Asked by Laurel Malkin if there is anything in particular of which businesspeople thinking of doing business in Israel should be aware.
Gomes noted that “Israel is a very casual society. You’re only two phone calls away from making connections.”