Canada and Israel announced Tuesday that they have agreed to upgrade their bilateral free-trade agreement, in what could be a major boost to economic ties.
Under the changes, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement will be revised and streamlined to remove some of the red tape at border crossings and expand market opportunities in the agriculture and food sector.
The revision will reduce transaction costs for businesses, support Canadian investment in Israel, increase transparency in regulatory matters and eliminate Israeli tariffs on a wide range of products.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday hailed the agreement, saying it would “strengthen [Canada’s] bilateral relationship” with the Jewish state, which he said was a key partner.
“Israel is a priority market for Canada and holds great potential for Canadian companies in a variety of sectors. 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,” Harper said.
Conservative Party leader Harper has been a staunch ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Canada has become a pro-Israel bulwark, vehemently supporting the Jewish state on the world stage. In a show of pro-Israel support, Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson said last week that Ottawa would hold its embargo on Tehran despite the Iran nuclear deal.
Two-way merchandise trade between the two nations stood at $1.6 billion in 2014, triple the amount when the free-trade agreement came into effect in its original iteration in 1997.
Netanyahu also praised the pact, calling the maple leaf nation “one of Israel’s closest friends.”
“We deeply appreciate our extensive and deep cooperation with the Canadian government, which has flourished in recent years and of which the free trade agreement is but one example. This expanded and modernized agreement will further energize the trade between our countries to the benefit of both our peoples,” Netanyahu said.
Canada’s Finance Minister Joe Oliver also chimed in, calling the agreement “another example of our government’s unwavering commitment to the future of the State of Israel.”