Britain’s relationship with Canada is going from strength to strength, and our trade relationship is at the heart of it

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Canada and the United Kingdom have a profound and positive relationship. British Columbia and its business community are an important part of that relationship, which we want to grow further.

As a newly independent trading nation, Britain is now in the position to deepen ties with one of her closest allies and negotiate a free trade agreement in the interests of businesses in every part of Canada and the United Kingdom. Our strong relationship helps to drive innovation and support economic growth in both countries, creating jobs, boosting wages – and easier trade between Britain and Canada will help offer consumers better choice and lower prices too.

The United Kingdom and Canada are the closest of allies, partners and friends. It is a partnership based on shared history and values – and a determination to be an active force for good in the world, from responding to the war in Ukraine, to tackling climate change.

We are the only two countries in the world that are members of Five Eyes, NATO, the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth.

And, just as importantly, our two countries aim to improve global economic conditions so that free and fair international trade and investment can thrive.

I’ve arrived in Vancouver today to mark the start of my five-day visit to Canada, where I will be promoting our highly ambitious trade negotiations, building support for British accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and building momentum around addressing trade barriers between our two countries.

A trade deal between our two countries will build on our trading relationship, which was worth over £19 billion ($31 billion) in 2020. We want to increase that, broaden it to businesses of all sizes and pursue a truly modern deal. 

For British Columbia, businesses exported more goods to the United Kingdom over the last five years than to any other European nation.  This includes B.C.’s quality wood products, seafood, film and television equipment. Conversely, the province’s imports from Britain include a fantastic range of spirits – some of which I will have the chance to sample in the service of my country in the BCL on my visit to their flagship store!  Our trade in services is extensive too, from financial and business services through to the almost 1 million British citizens who visited B.C. in 2019 – and who I hope will soon return to this beautiful province.

We both have advanced digital sectors, making the province fertile ground for digital services trade with us. B.C. is home to Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster and 13% of Canada’s digital workforce. Your creative tech sector rightly sees the United Kingdom as a key country for international talent. £4.8 billion of British services exports were digitally delivered to Canada in 2020 and a new deal could secure comprehensive digital trade provisions which support free, open and trusted cross-border data flows, while maintaining our high standards for personal data protection.

Another important area in our trade negotiations is opening up the market for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In 2020, British Columbian firms with fewer than 50 employees constituted 86% of British Columbia’s exporters, but were responsible for only 36% of the value of exports. This is in part due to barriers like the high costs of setting up export procedures, financing gaps and difficulty scaling up production to become internationally competitive. 

A chapter dedicated to small- and medium-sized enterprises could help break down barriers and raise the participation of British and Canadian SMEs in trade by committing both parties to reduce the burden on businesses looking to export.

Both our nations aim to be world leaders in protecting the environment and combating climate change, and I know that this is felt particularly strongly in B.C. after last year’s extreme weather challenges. We are working closely together to build a net zero future, and we were pleased to have Canada – and British Columbia independently – sign the ZEV Declaration at COP26 last November. Our two countries are committed to making sure women have the same opportunities from trade as men, and we’re leading the way globally by including chapters that promote these opportunities and address the barriers faced by women in trade.

Like Canada, Britain is committed to strengthening our engagement across the Indo-Pacific, helping define the high-quality trading rules that will shape the future of this high growth region. British Columbia has an obvious shared interest here, and our accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership will help us work together to access new supply chains and benefit British and Canadian businesses.

We have so much in common and such a strong shared agenda. I’m looking forward to getting started.

Ranil Jayawardena is the U.K. minister of international trade.