Canada presents a significant opportunity for the Irish economy – ICBA

Kate Hickey, Executive Director, Ireland Canada Business Association (ICBA)

A delegation of the Ireland Canada Business Association (ICBA) recently returned from a high-level business mission to Canada. The mission coincided with a meeting in Paris between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, where Brexit, Northern Ireland and CETA were discussed.

Ireland and Canada already enjoy close bilateral business connections and the purpose of the ICBA mission was to further strengthen those ties and capitalise on the opportunities that Brexit, CETA, and NAFTA renegotiations present.

The ICBA mission revealed that Canada’s business and political leaders firmly believe in the vast potential of the Canada / Ireland relationship. With further efforts on a governmental level, a number of opportunities can be capitalised upon. They include:

  1. Canada’s desire to do more business with Ireland

Meetings held with the Board of Trade in Toronto and Quebec trade development agencies highlighted the attractiveness of the Irish market for Canadian businesses looking to export beyond the US. There is an opportunity for Ireland to showcase its attractive business environment across Canada, focusing on the country’s talented workforce, open economy and ease of doing business. With the continued efforts of the ICBA, IDA, Ambassador Jim Kelly, and Tánaiste Simon Coveney in highlighting what we have to offer, Ireland will become a real contender for Canadian investment this side of the world.

  1. Canada is looking for direct investment from Ireland

Roundtable meetings held with investment agencies in Ontario and Quebec confirmed that these provinces wanted strongly to promote themselves as a location for Irish direct investment. Irish and Canadian business cultures are very closely aligned and both share a legacy of common law. Meetings with Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney confirmed that this shared legacy is an important aspect of the Ireland Canada story. In fact, Ireland remains the last common law English-speaking country which is a member of the European Union.

  1. The changing Canada / US trade relationship presents Ireland with a big opportunity

Canada urgently needs to diversify trade beyond the United States and increase links to other market economies. For a long time, being right beside the US - the biggest, richest market in the world — has allowed Canadian companies export with ease. The experience of renegotiating NAFTA into USMCA has highlighted Canada’s vulnerability to a dominant trading partner that buys approximately 75% of Canadian exports. Only Kuwait, Bermuda, and Mexico have a higher geographic concentration of exports than Canada. When compared to countries where there are similar dependence issues such as Ireland & UK, Hong Kong & China, and New Zealand & Australia, Canada’s exports are much more concentrated. As a result of these factors, the delegation heard from well-placed sources that Canada is very open to increasing trade with Ireland and to using Ireland as a stepping stone for the wider EU market.

  1. Toronto Financial International (TFI)– a potential ally

TFI is a public-private partnership between Canada’s three levels of government, the financial services sector and academia with a mission to drive the competitiveness and growth of Toronto’s financial sector. Currently Toronto is the 2nd largest financial centre in North America. Aligning financial activities with a transition to a smart economy is a key concern for TFI and also for the Irish Government. Currently, the organisation is looking for international cooperation in the areas of Fintech and sustainable finance. Ireland, with its thriving international financial sector and a shared common law legacy with Canada, is very well placed to be a partner. There exists the opportunity to replicate the role of the Canadian financial sector in supporting actions that address climate change and collaborating with TFI.

The Ireland Canada Business Association strongly believes in the potential that lies in the economic and political relationships between our two nations. Already we have seen the number of jobs created by Canadian companies in Ireland grow by over 40% since 2014, and almost double-digit growth in the value of exports from Ireland to Canada. With Brexit strengthening Ireland’s position as a natural gateway to Europe for multinationals, boosted by the recent opening of an IDA office in Toronto, the opportunity is sizeable.

The ICBA’s recent business mission has confirmed that Canada’s industry and political leaders share our belief in the Ireland Canada relationship, and can clearly see ways to further strengthen it. We call on the government to continue to build on the great work it is doing in this regard, so that Ireland can make the very most of the opportunity currently presented.

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