Canada, Israel hold talks to update free trade pact

Rafael Barak

Two-way trade in merchandise between Canada and Israel stood at $1.2 billion as of the end of October 2014, but there’s always room to do more.

With the goal of enhancing economic ties between the two nations, negotiators from both countries met in Jerusalem last week for the third round of talks to expand and modernize the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA).

CIFTA has been in place since 1997, but its terms have been eclipsed by developments in a number of fields, including e-commerce.

Negotiators from the two jurisdictions tackled a variety of other issues as well, such as access for goods, dispute resolution, defining the origin of goods, agricultural regulations, technical barriers for trade and intellectual property, said Max Moncaster, press secretary to Minister of International Trade Ed Fast.

Other areas being discussed that could result in side agreements are labour and environmental issues, he added.

“An expanded and modernized agreement will support Canadian businesses and investors, deepen trade and investment linkages and further strengthen Canada’s bilateral relationship with Israel,” said a news release from Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

“We’re certainly committed to deepening our economic ties with Israel,” Moncaster said. Canada is modernizing its free trade agreements with a number of countries, he added.

Israel’s ambassador to Canada was likewise upbeat about an updated deal. “Israel cherishes its warm, deeply rooted relationship with Canada, in which bilateral trade and mutual economic interests play important roles,” said Ambassador Rafael Barak.

 “We are working side by side to take the CIFTA into the 21st century by making it more responsive to the new era of e-commerce.

 “An upgraded agreement will not only strengthen our bilateral ties, but will also lead to more business opportunities and greater prosperity for both Canadians and Israelis,” the ambassador added.

According to Moncaster, the $1.2 billion figure does not include trade in services and investment, but the 2014 data for these sectors was not available yet.

In 2013, two-way trade in services alone totalled $401 million. For merchandise, for which the 2014 data is available to the end of October, Canada imported far more from Israel than it exported. Its exports totalled $284 million, while imports came in slightly under $1 billion.

Canada’s main exports were paper and paperboard, aircraft and parts, machinery and parts, electric machinery and electric parts and cereals.

Its main imports were pharmaceuticals, electric machinery and electronic equipment, precious stones and metals, machinery and parts.

Since CIFTA came into force in 1997, Canada’s two-way merchandise trade with Israel has more than doubled, starting at $507 million in 1996.

In January 2014, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced  new talks to expand and modernize CIFTA. The first round of negotiations took place in Israel in February and the second was held in Ottawa in May.