Canada and Israel Unveil New Free-trade Agreement

Exports between the two countries have more than tripled to $1.6 billion in less than two decades.

AP

Canada and Israel have announced a new free-trade agreement expected to ease the import of fish and baked goods to Israel and the export of farm products and wine.

The deal replaces a 1997 treaty between Ottawa and Jerusalem. Since the signing of the first agreement, Israeli-Canadian trade has surged to about $1.6 billion last year from $500 million.

The new agreement, which still needs to be approved by the two parliaments, is expected to boost trade even further.

"Israel is a priority market for Canada and holds great potential for Canadian companies in a variety of sectors,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday of the treaty, formally known as the Canadian-Israel Free Trade Agreement, or CIFTA.

“An expanded and modernized free trade agreement will lead to a strengthened bilateral relationship as well as an increase in jobs and opportunities for Canadians and Israelis alike,” said Harper, who is widely considered a close friend of Israel.

In a telephone conversion with Harper, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Canada one of Israel’s closest friends. He said the new agreement would be advantageous for both countries.

The treaty aims to reduce customs on agricultural products, including for Israeli grains, fish and wine. In return, Israel is giving Canada duty-free access for products including various kinds of baked goods, glucose, berries, certain fish, spices, and canned fruits and vegetables.

Also, duty-free quotas have been established for apples, potatoes, onions, frozen vegetables, dried fruit and wine. The agreement is also designed to increase transparency and reduce bureaucracy.

“Canada values its long-standing relationship with Israel, which is based on shared values, common interests and strong political, economic, cultural and social ties. An expanded and modernized agreement will further enhance Canada’s visibility and terms of access in the Israeli market, while supporting the close bilateral relationship more generally,” the Canadian government said in a statement.

“Key opportunities for Canadian companies exist in sectors such as defense, information and communications technology, life sciences, sustainable technologies, agriculture and agri-food, and fish and seafood.”

Ohad Cohen, the head of foreign trade at the Economy Ministry, said the agreement with Canada was one of a number of similar treaties with countries around the world.

“Currently more than 60% of Israel’s foreign trade falls under free-trade agreements,” he said. “Israel is now in negotiations with India, Panama and Ukraine, and is about to begin negotiations with other countries in Asia.”