CANADIAN BUSINESS LEADERS CONFIDENT ABOUT FREE TRADE

Miller Thomson LLP survey finds Canadian business executives welcome greater trade access to European Union and China

TORONTO, Feb. 3 /CNW/ - More than 90 per cent of Canadian business executives believe Canada has benefited from existing free trade agreements according to a survey of senior executives released today by national business law firm Miller Thomson LLP. The survey also found that 60 per cent of Canadian business leaders feel that free trade with the European Union should be a government priority and 37 per cent believe that there is an urgency to examine our trading relationship with China.

"These results are a testament to how much Canadian businesses are paying attention to markets beyond our borders," said Gerald Courage, Chair of Miller Thomson. "As a national business law firm, we can attest to just how important the issue of free trade has become to our domestic and increasingly international client base."

The survey, conducted in late 2010, polled 200 senior business executives across Canada from industries ranging from manufacturing to retail, financial services, forestry, agriculture and mining. Respondents were asked about their sentiments toward existing free trade agreements, potential pacts with critical markets like the European Union and China, as well as the specific European countries they feel offer the biggest opportunities and which ones pose the biggest threats for Canadian businesses.

Survey highlights:

  • 57% of total respondents feel that Canadian businesses have "absolutely" benefitted from free trade agreements with an additional 32% seeing marginal benefit
  • Support for a European Union free trade agreement is strongest in BC (72%) and Alberta (69%) and lowest in Quebec (44%) and the Altantic provinces (45%)
  • Greatest support for free trade with Europe is among companies with $1 to $5 billion in annual revenue (74%) and less than $10 million (67%)
  • Respondents see the greatest trade opportunities with Germany (90%), United Kingdom (84%) and France (82%)
  • Germany (57%) and the United Kingdom (40%) were seen as posing the greatest threat to Canadian business from European Union countries
  • 59% of Canadian business leaders responded that free trade with China is either extremely important or important
  • 14% of respondents consider free trade with China "essential" and an identical number feel that it is "not a good idea"

"The future for Canadian business is in international markets," said James Klotz, a Partner in the Business Law Group of Miller Thomson and Co-Chair of the firm's International Business Transactions Group. "Any Canadian business with a global trading strategy needs to carefully consider the opportunities that free trade will bring."

"Our current federal government believes strongly that free trade is essential to Canada's economic prosperity," said Dalton Albrecht, Partner at Miller Thomson and head of the firm's International Trade Law Group. "And despite what was arguably a historical reluctance to embrace the issue, it is clear from these results that Canadian business leaders are increasingly confident in their ability to compete in international markets on fair trade terms."

Canada's existing trade agreements include the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and individual pacts with trading partners like Panama, Jordan, Peru, Chile and Israel.

Miller Thomson's 2010 Free Trade Survey was conducted exclusively for Miller Thomson LLP by Research House. A sample of 200 senior and C-level executives were surveyed (162 males and 38 females). With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ± 6.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Quebec had the highest percentage of respondents whose company fell in the $10 million to $100-million revenue range. Ontario had the highest percentage of respondents whose company fell in the $100 to $500-million revenue range.

For details, please refer to the attached survey highlights.

About Miller Thomson
Miller Thomson LLP is a national business law firm with more than 470 lawyers working from 11 offices across Canada. The firm offers a complete range of business law, advocacy and personal legal services. Miller Thomson works regularly with in-house legal departments and external counsel world-wide to facilitate cross-border and multinational transactions and business needs. Miller Thomson offices are located in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Toronto, Markham and Montréal. For more information please visit: www.millerthomson.com

Miller Thomson's 2010 Free Trade Survey

Highlights

Have Canadian businesses benefited from existing free trade agreements?

  • Absolutely - BC (50%), AB (66%), MB/SK (70%), ON (60%), QC (49%), ATL (36%)
  • Marginally - BC (33%), AB (31%), MB/SK (10%), ON (33%), QC (28%), ATL (64%)
  • Not at all - BC (11%), AB (-), MB/SK (20%), ON (3%), QC (5%), ATL (-)
  • Don't know/Not applicable - BC (6%), AB (3%), MB/SK (-), ON (3%), QC (18%), ATL (-)

Should free trade with the European Union be a government priority?

  • Yes - BC (72%), AB (69%), MB/SK (50%), ON (63%), QC (44%), ATL (45%)
  • No - BC (28%), AB (31%), MB/SK (50%), ON (33%), QC (54%), ATL (55%)

EU opportunities and threats

  • 90 per cent of respondents agreed that Germany offers the best trade opportunities, followed by the United Kingdom at 84 per cent and France at 82 per cent.
  • 40 per cent of Atlantic Canadians agreed the UK offers the best opportunities, compared to 100 per cent support from respondents in BC, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and 94 per cent in Quebec.
  • Canadian business leaders see Germany (57%), United Kingdom (40%) and France (21%) as the greatest threats.

How important is free trade with China?

  • 84 per cent of respondents agree that Canada should consider negotiating a free trade agreement with China. 14 per cent consider it essential, 23 per cent extremely important, 36 per cent important and 10 per cent believe it should be "on the list." 14 per cent of those surveyed consider free trade with China "not a good idea."
  • 45 per cent of respondents in resource-rich Atlantic Canada consider free trade with China essential, while only 5 per cent of respondents in manufacturing-centric Ontario would agree.

** Complete research results available upon request

SOURCE Miller Thomson LLP

For further information:

Alex Mangiola
Pilot PMR
416-462-0199 ext. 21
alex@pilotpmr.com


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