On February 15, the European Parliament approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the trade deal between Canada and the European Union. The agreement may tentatively come into effect as of March 1. This means that all provisions applicable to the EU will take effect on that date. The provisions under the responsibility of the EU member states will only apply when the CETA is fully implemented, which could take several years.  

In real terms, as of March 1, the provisions that govern tariffs will come into effect. On average, Canadian businesses pay 14% tariffs on exports to Europe. These duties will be 100% eliminated for industrial and fishing products and 91.7% eliminated for agricultural products. However, provisions regarding labour mobility, for example, are governed by EU members. This means that they will take effect once the ratification is completed by all member states.

Currently, 17 000 Canadian companies, of which 80% are SMEs, export to the EU.  This new trade deal can be an excellent opportunity to seize for many businesses. Contrary to what some pundits believe, the agreement will not benefit only multinational corporations. SMEs can get in on the action too!

Do you have a business plan for Europe?

When you export, you’re not going abroad for travel and tourism. You’re there to do business. You must do your homework; there is no room for simply “winging it.” You have to draw up dedicated budgets, a sales and marketing plan, a plan to protect your intellectual property, and a strategy to address rules of origin. There are so many things you need to think about; however, it’s critical that you take the time to develop your business plan carefully to succeed abroad. 

In Europe, you can access a market that brings together 28 member states. Indeed, that is a huge market—but it also means you’ll have to adhere to 28 different rules and regulations regarding several aspects of your business. Here are some of the issues you may need to resolve before selling abroad: What laws will govern your business partnerships? Do you want to sell on site or prefer ecommerce? Does your website adhere to European laws as well as the laws in the specific countries you are targeting? Does your website meet applicable laws (European and the specific countries) regarding consumer protection, confidentiality, sales taxes and more? As you can see, the strategy you will opt for will depend on your overall goals.

In order to increase your chances of succeeding, invest in a market in which your company’s productivity is needed. Then, diversify and target other countries. You should also think about your intellectual property and rules of origin. Don’t forget to adapt your material to meet local consumer needs (website, packaging, texts, etc.) as methods of communication may vary from one country to another. The key to a successful export strategy? Good planning!


Culat, Didier. Êtes-vous prêts pour l’Europe? . ? http://www.bcf.ca/fr/actualites/679/etes-vous-prets-pour-l-europe. 31 octobre 2016.

Radio-Canada, AFP et Reuters. Le Parlement européen approuve l’accord Canada-UE. Radio-Canada. . http://www.ledevoir.com/international/europe/491730/le-parlement-europeen-approuve-l-accord-de-libre-echange-canada-union-europeenne. 15 février 2017.

Fillion, Gérald. Libre-échange Canada-UE : 10 choses que vous devez savoir. Radio-Canada. http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/811927/aecg-ceta-libre-echange-accord-entente-europe-ue-canada-trudeau-magnette. 31 octobre 2016.

Charlebois, Sylvain. Sommet sur l’alimentation. https://sommetalimqc.gouv.qc.ca/videos. 10 février 2017.

DS Avocats. AECG-CETA. Infolettre. .

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