Government should promote benefits of CETA to small businesses: CFIB

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre,  European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, and European Council President Donald Tusk sign CETA during the European Union-Canada Leaders’ Summit in Brussels, Belgium, in 2016 | BIV Files

Most Canadian small businesses are unfamiliar with the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), coming into effect tomorrow (September 21), even though the agreement provides opportunities to enterprises of all sizes, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Fifty six per cent of small businesses in Canada are unfamiliar with CETA, which will remove almost all trade tariffs between the two regions, the CFIB said. In order to make sure Canadian companies fully benefit from the agreement’s potential, the federal government has a role to play.

“Now that the agreement is in place, the next step is to educate and encourage businesses to look at Europe as a potential market,” said CFIB vice-president of national affairs Corinne Pohlmann.

“The government now has an opportunity to engage SMEs [small-to-medium enterprises] and provide them with the tools and resources they need to grow and expand their business with CETA.”

In particular, CFIB recommends the government provide SMEs with concrete steps they can take to begin trading with the EU. As well, it should clearly communicate the potential benefits.

The government should also work directly with the EU to develop resources such as a website that outlines information relating to customs processes and regulations, the CFIB said.

Of those small Canadian businesses that already import from or export to Europe, more than half of them say they plan to increase the amount they trade over the next three years.

Pohlmann said the federal government deserves recognition for implementing CETA, as the EU is the second-largest economic zone in the world.

“This is particularly important at this time, given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding NAFTA,” she said.