Following a decade of talks between the European Union (EU) and Canada, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement was signed on Feb. 15. The agreement promises to create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, and give Canadian producers, manufacturers and exporters greater opportunities to export to the EU, a single market made up of 28 countries and 6.9 per cent of the world’s population.

Currently only 25 per cent of Canadian goods entering the EU are duty-free, but once CETA is fully implemented, it will increase to 99 per cent within seven years. For the Canadian mining sector, this translates to reduced tariffs when exporting raw materials to the EU. But for the thousands of companies in Canada’s mining supply and services (MSS) sector, the benefits are not as clear.

Ryan McEachern, managing director for the Canadian Association for Mining Equipment and Services for Export (CAMESE), said that for most of the association’s membership “it’s just another trade agreement and a step in the right direction. We’ll wait and see once it passes the Senate and becomes real.”

CAMESE is considering how CETA will impact the Canadian MSS sector on behalf of its 300 member companies. About 70 per cent of these companies are currently involved in exporting goods, mainly to the United States and Mexico, and South American markets.

“With just half a per cent of the world’s population and 2.5 per cent of the global GDP, Canada’s a small part of the big picture,” said McEachern. Canada relies heavily on trade, he said, but is recognized as a resource sector leader, particularly when it comes to quality and adherence to social and environmental regulations.

“Reducing the complexity of moving products across borders and reducing duties and costs will be a benefit,” said McEachern. “Improved labour mobility will benefit companies offering engineering services, for example, and the simplification of entering markets to identify and negotiate deals will benefit companies looking at the European market for growth.”

The EU Parliament voted 408 to 254 in favour of CETA in Strasbourg, France. Both Canada and the EU will now complete their respective legislative and regulatory processes to bring the agreement into force by spring 2017.