If you are looking to grow globally, targeting the European Union makes a lot of sense. Why? Mr. Reinhout and Schoeben were happy to lay out their case.
First, the lack of trade restrictions between Canada and the European Union enables convenient access to the hundreds of millions of consumers in the EU. Because of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), Canadian companies have unparalleled access to the entire EU market. While not officially ratified, CETA is in all practicality essentially enacted. Whatever tariffs are in place still are limited and inconsequential to trade, says Mr. Schobben.
The EU is an open market, and it is a massive market. It has a population of over 500 million and a 15 trillion USD-sized economy.
And it is not a passive market—there is an active desire for Canadian products and business, but not enough supply is coming in, says Mr. Schobben. Canadian products have a good reputation in the world, and especially Europe. Offering encouragement, he says “I often hear from people in Canada that they are afraid to export to the EU because they are just small or medium sized enterprises. That is not a problem! Being a small business is not a problem. Belgium itself is a country of SMEs. You can absolutely succeed as an SME exporting to Europe.”
And because the European Union is a shared regulatory environment, you will only need to deal with customs one time when accessing the entire market; once you bring your product in to one country, you can then deal your product in any other country in the EU. Underscoring this point was Frederick Leentfaar, Attorney at Law, and Marie Keup, Counsel, both with the international law firm TaylorWessing. They were able to join the event via video conference from the Netherlands to provide input and answer questions from the participants.
Additionally, the EU is a secure place to do business. Because it is governed by tough regulations, the strict rule of law, and some of the most stringent data protections in the world, dealing within the EU is a low-risk endeavor—an advantage over other global markets that do not afford foreign companies that level of certainty.