Laval welcomes Canada’s Atlantic pivot

Europe trade pact poised to bring more money, jobs

By Robert Frank

Laval’s already-thriving exporters are packing their bags. They stand to reap massive gains, thanks to the federal government’s new free trade initiative with the European Union, Laval Technopole’s director of international affairs told The Suburban in an interview.

“International trade already supports a quarter of Laval’s $13.5 billion economy and one in four jobs,” enthused Véronique Proulx. “This is already a significant figure, one which the free trade agreement will only serve to increase.”

“We’re talking about getting better access to a 500-million-consumer market,” she observed. “Duties on 98 per cent of products will decrease, and harmonizing regulations will help Canadian investors to set up shop and create business in Europe—and we already have quite a few of these in Laval.”

“At the beginning of 2013, 32 per cent of Laval’s 450 exporters were already selling in Europe,” Proux continued. “When we asked them where those 450 wanted to broaden their markets, 30 per cent of them said Europe.”

Most Canadians don’t realize that their economy is much more reliant on trade than countries like Japan, Germany and the United States. The EU trade pact could catapult Canada toward top spot among the world’s export economies.

Outward-looking Sweden, Proulx said, earns 48.5 per cent of its income on exports. The Scandinavian nation’s trade thrust made it Europe’s economic star, drawing analysts from countries around the world that want to emulate its success.

“The Quebec government aims to boost the Quebec reliance on exports to 55 per cent of the province’s economy,” she added. “It will take about two years to implement the free trade agreement, so there is still time for companies that don’t yet have a distribution network in place in Europe to take advantage of the new pact.”

Proulx expects the free trade agreement will create ample opportunity for Laval’s biotech city, which attracted $1 billion in investment to Laval in 2012 alone.

“Software and service companies are usually the first to export,” she explained. “It’s easier than manufactured goods. Laval’s medical technology companies, which bridge the life sciences and information technology, are also sure to benefit from the EU pact.”

“Companies in niche markets will benefit even more,” she predicted citing the example of Citagenix, which developed bone-regeneration technology. “They have distributors all over Europe and opened up a subsidiary there a few years ago.”

The city’s manufacturers also stand to gain.

“Laval already has a bridgehead in manufactured goods,” Proulx said. “SHAN bathing suits are already sold in various European markets, like a lot of other Laval consumer goods.”

A senior federal trade official said, Oct. 18, that generic drug exports will be exempted from the free trade deal.

“A significant proportion of [the European Union’s pharmaceutical] business consists of exports,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We’ve also agreed for some additional protection for patent terms. Up to two years will be allowed, in contrast to the European Union and the United States, which provide up to five years.”

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