International Trade Minister Ed Fast will lead a trade mission to Israel July 21 to 24 that will focus on improving business ties and updating the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.
“We are committed to modernizing the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), and these negotiations will feature prominently in my discussions on the trip,” Fast said in a statement last week. “Our economic partnership is a key aspect of our abiding bilateral friendship, and we remain fully committed to expanding trade ties with Israel.”
The announcement was praised by Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak. “The Fast visit is very important to further develop the good economic ties between Israel and Canada,” Barak said, adding that the visit builds on other initiatives that bring together firms from both countries.
Canada-Israel business connections continue to grow, he said, noting the recent acquisition of two Israeli start-ups by Canadian industry leaders, BlackBerry, which acquired WatchDox, and Intuit, which purchased Porticor.
“We hope and anticipate that the free trade agreement between the countries is upgraded and updated,” Barak said. “I hope that during this visit this agreement will be signed.”
The July trade mission is meant to build on momentum created by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Israel in January 2014. Since then, there have been several announcements of projects to bring together Canadian and Israeli firms.
Ottawa has pledged a total of $50 million over five years in financial assistance to Canadian small and medium enterprises for market research and participation in trade missions, as part of Canada’s 2015 Economic Action Plan. It’s expected this funding will help between 500 and 1,000 Canadian entrepreneurs per year reach their full export potential.
CIFTA came into effect in January 1997. It eliminated tariffs on industrial products and some agricultural and fisheries products. Since its inception, Canada-Israel bilateral merchandise trade has more than doubled.
Bilateral merchandise trade between the two countries reached nearly $1.6 billion in 2014, an increase of 8.2 per cent over the previous year. Bilateral trade in services was $401 million in 2013, a nearly 10 per cent increase over 2012.
“This trade mission will provide on-the-ground support to Canadian companies, especially small-and medium-sized enterprises, as they take advantage of opportunities in one of the most dynamic economies in the Middle East,” Fast said. “One of my main roles on the trade mission will be that of Canada’s chief trade commissioner – helping to sell Canada’s world-class products in the Israeli market.”
Max Moncaster, Fast’s press secretary, said among the sectors targeted for growth by Canada are agriculture and agri-tech, as well as defence and security.
Last week, Fast was in Toronto to meet with representatives of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and stakeholders who do business in Israel. The roundtable aimed to gather advice on what works best in Israel and what possible business ties could be exploited, Moncaster said.
Israel is a priority market under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP), Fast said. “Our economic partnership is a key aspect of our abiding bilateral friendship, and we remain fully committed to expanding trade ties with Israel."