Montreal’s port community has strongly endorsed the framework free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union (EU) announced on October 18. Canadian exporters are looking forward to gaining tariff-free access to a market of 500 million consumers under the biggest free trade deal for Canada since the free trade pact established with the United States in the late 1980s. Importers also stand to benefit from lower prices for European industrial and other products.
The two sides expect a final agreement to be ratified within two years, with a number of negotiating issues still to be resolved in the meantime.
“We are the leading port on the North American East Coast for trade between Northern Europe and North America’s industrial heartland,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority (MPA).
“It’s a home-run for Canada, and certainly opens the door, for instance, to increased exports in reefer containers of beef and pork as well as some manufactured products,” said Kevin Doherty, CEO of Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership. “Overall cargo volume across the Atlantic stands to increase.”
Strategically located between the world’s two largest economic blocs, the EU and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement encompassing the United States, Canada and Mexico), the Port of Montreal is the natural gateway for Europe, the MPA said in a press release.
European markets already represent 39 percent of total traffic and close to 65 percent of container traffic moving through the Port of Montreal. Total container cargo at Montreal last year amounted to 1.3 million TEUs.
Moreover, Quebec accounts for 35 percent of Canadian exports moving to Europe. These exports, in particular those transported by container, move for the most part through the Port of Montreal.
Among the main exports that will benefit from the new accord are agri-food products such as pork and beef, and certain finished and semi-finished products such as aeronautic parts, and pulp and paper, the Montreal Port Authority affirmed.
“Within the context of the new free-trade agreement with the European Union, our vision to expand the port to our land at Contrecoeur (on the St. Lawrence River) takes on added significance,” Vachon said, referring to plans to especially enhance container capacity when demand increases significantly.