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Canada-Switzerland trade ties boast growth potential

The free trade agreement between Canada and a number of European countries, including Switzerland (C-EFTA) is important for bilateral trade — and both Canadian and Swiss businesses are looking forward to further developing these partnerships, Toronto intellectual property lawyer Taras Kulish writes in the Spring 2016 edition of info Suisse, a publication of the Swiss Canadian Chamber of Commerce (Ontario).

“Swiss and Canadian diplomats work within the parameters of treaties to grow their nations’ business interests. The free trade agreement (C-EFTA) between Canada and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland was signed in Davos on January 26, 2008. C-EFTA is a goods-only agreement emphasising tariff elimination which covers trade in industrial products, including fish, other marine products, and processed agricultural products and now includes a Canada/Swiss Bilateral Agreement on basic agriculture products,” explains Kulish, a senior associate with Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP.

C-EFTA marked Canada’s first free trade agreement with European countries, and the elimination of barriers to trade and duty-free access to the industrial products in each other’s markets boosted trade flows between Canada and Switzerland, Kulish writes.

As Switzerland's Ambassador to Canada, Dr. Beat Nobs, tells Kulish for Info Suisse, bilateral trade is currently worth around 5 billion CHF, and Switzerland is Canada’s fifth-largest investor.

At the same time, Canadian Ambassador to Switzerland Jennifer MacIntyre tells Kulish there is significant potential to grow these ties. “For example, both of our countries are committed to addressing climate change and investing in clean and sustainable technologies. This is an area of high priority [for] my team and me. Innovation is another key focus. Switzerland is ranked year after year as the most innovative country in the world, and we think the Canadian innovation ecosystem will benefit from closer partnership with Switzerland.

“Of course, we also continue to reach out to Swiss companies looking to expand abroad to demonstrate why choosing Canada is the best investment decision for them. Last November, representatives from nine largest Canadian cities came to Zurich to meet with potential Swiss investors. The success of the event was beyond my expectations. We are planning to organize more of such investment-attraction initiatives,” Ambassador MacIntyre tells Kulish for Info Suisse.

Last February, the article says, the EFTA council chair announced a formal exploratory process regarding a possible update of the C-ETFA, with its scope potentially expanding into areas such as services, investment, and intellectual property.

Canada’s Minister of International Trade, The Honourable Chrystia Freeland told Kulish that the C-EFTA is important for bilateral trade, as it "confers a distinct competitive advantage to both Canadian and Swiss businesses to expand commercial ties across the pond."

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