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Corporate, Cross-Border, Intellectual Property

Ukraine ripe for Canadian business expansion

Businesses seeking to expand into Europe should look at opportunities afforded by Canada's special relationship with Ukraine, says Toronto charities and intellectual property lawyer Taras Kulish.

Kulish, a senior associate in corporate-commercial practice at Steinberg Title Hope and Israel LLP says that message is loud and clear following a speech at the Club Canadien de Toronto in December by Dr. Andrii Veselovskyi, consul general of Ukraine.

“As he said, Canada is punching above its weight class in its relationship with Ukraine,” Kulish tells AdvocateDaily.com. “Our relationship is much closer than America’s relationship with Ukraine for many reasons. Also, Canada has a direct free trade agreement, the Canadian-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA), which represents a major opportunity to deal directly with Europe.”

While Canada is also a partner in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Free Trade Agreement (CETA), Veselovskyi said Ukraine is also part of the European Union and offers another direct entry point and has some better terms and conditions.

Kulish, a senior associate with Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP, says Veselovskyi’s speech underlined many of the opportunities for Canadian investment, especially since America doesn't have the same trade agreements in place.

“As business lawyers, we help people from Ukraine and other countries enter the Canadian market and certainly we’re well placed to help Canadian businesses enter Ukraine,” he says. “Between the two free trade agreements, Canada certainly has a jump-start on American competition but that window won’t be there forever."

In his speech, Veselovskyi said, “Ukraine is a country of 43 million inhabitants occupying an area of 600,000 square kilometres. Its CAD$130-billion GDP ranks it 60th in the world. France is sixth, with $2.4 trillion of GNP, 65 million inhabitants and a territory of 550,000 square kilometres.

"Poland, our neighbour to the west of Ukraine, has $500-billion GNP, and is in 24th place, with 39-million inhabitants. For comparison, the province of Ontario, with 14-million inhabitants, produces almost $800-billion GNP over a territory of one million square kilometres. Ukraine is, therefore, a relatively small player at the international level,” Veselovskyi said.

Ukraine is struggling economically and politically, he said, with a Russian occupation and a demographic which sees fewer working people supporting more elderly people.

Still, Veselovskyi said there are more than 1.3-million Ukrainian-born people living in Canada, who make up almost five per cent of the electorate and sometimes 10 to 15 per cent in some areas.

As it stands, Canada only does about $400 million in trade annually with Ukraine but with CUFTA that could rise 30 per cent a year, he said.

There are opportunities in food, agriculture, and textiles and there are a many highly educated and trained people in engineering and IT in Ukraine, says Kulish.

“Canadian Tire has an IT unit set up in Ukraine,” he says. “IT is one of the leading sectors. You can literally get set up there with servers and data storage within 24 to 48 hours.”

There are other technology opportunities for Canadian companies, Kulish adds, such as GPS drones which can map and monitor crops, transportation logistics, military equipment and software development.

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