Ireland-Canada Trade Doubled in past seven years…Shannon Chamber Seminar hears

Suzanne Drisdelle, Senior Trade Commissioner, Embassy of Canada in Ireland, pictured at the Irish-Canada seminar in Shannon (from left): Kate Hickey, Ireland Canada Business Association; Sean Ganley, Rochester Sensors-Tekelek; Peter Murphy, Ei Electronics; Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber; Michael Prendergast, Bath Fitter; and Mick Guinee, chairman and chief executive, Ei Electronics. Photograph by Eamon Ward

The impact of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on Irish-Canadian trade since the Agreement came into force in September 2017 is evident in the fact that trade between the two countries has effectively doubled. Irish exports to Canada in 2022 were valued at €3.3billion whilst Irish imports from Canada reached €637million with the two-way trade in services now surpassing that of goods.

These were some of the key facts delivered by the Embassy of Canada in Ireland’s senior trade commissioner, Suzanne Drisdelle, when she visited Shannon to present at a Shannon Chamber seminar hosted in Ei Electronics’ Centre of Excellence. This was Ms Drisdelle’s second visit to Shannon, the last being in 2020 when she was acting Canadian Ambassador to Ireland.

The seminar was organised in collaboration with the Ireland Canada Business Association whose mission is to promote and facilitate trade and investment between Ireland and Canada.

Ms Drisdelle was in Shannon to highlight Canadian capabilities and to encourage more Irish businesses to consider doing business with Canada, either through connecting with the Embassy, the Ireland Canada Business Association or Enterprise Ireland.

Lauding the great supportive teamwork that exists between all organisations that assist companies to trade in both directions, she said: “There has never been such great two-way communication with our Irish partners. The goodwill that exists between our two countries is exceptional.”

Top Irish exports to Canada include pharmaceuticals and chemicals, beverages and spirits, medical devices, machinery and meat, with Canadian imports to Ireland ranging from animal feed, pharmaceuticals and chemicals to petroleum products, machinery and medical devices.

Seminar attendees were advised that, with Canada now an Associate Country under Pillar 2 of Horizon Europe, the world’s largest research and innovation funding programme, new opportunities will open up for Irish researchers and companies involved in R&D to more easily collaborate with Canadian partners, on equal footing with EU partners.

Stating that Ireland and Canada have shared challenges to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and decarbonise, and shared commitments to develop renewable energy, Ms Drisdelle pointed to the supply chain of offshore wind as an area for collaboration.

“There is potential for Ireland to leverage Atlantic Canada’s decades of experience in offshore energy, particularly in marine safety and technology and operations in rough ocean environments, when developing its offshore wind programme. Ireland and Canada are both seeking solutions in renewable energy, and Canada has capabilities throughout the offshore wind supply chain including underwater imaging, acoustic monitoring, seabed mapping and offshore engineering services,” Ms Drisdelle added.

Two companies, Shannon-based Rochester Sensors-Tekelek and Canadian company, Bath Fitter, that have already embedded themselves in both directions also outlined the progress they have made since entering both markets.

Rochester Sensors-Tekelek’s chief sales officer, Sean Ganley, outlined the potential Canada offers to Irish companies. World leaders in level measurement technology, with 5 million devices deployed in 60 countries worldwide to measure substances such as fuel, LPG, chemicals, water, coolants, waste, waste oil and lubricants, the company has found doing business with Canada exceptionally efficient.

“Canada is more than a beachhead market; it’s a market in its own right if the return on investment is there. There is a great affinity between the two countries. We speak the same language which makes moving to proof-of-concept stage relatively speedy,” he said.

Similar ease into market has been experienced by Montreal headquartered Bath Fitter, who first looked at the Irish market in 2019 when seeking a location from which to serve the EU market. With 273 locations in Canada and North America, 4,000 employees and two state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, Bath Fitter’s products can now be found in hotels, hospitals, nursing homes and residential homes in Ireland.

Bath Fitter’s vice-president for Europe, Michael Prendergast, presenting at the Shannon Chamber seminar said: “People make the difference when entering a new market and whilst not an IDA client, we received exceptional advice and assistance from the organisation, which assisted us greatly in settling into our Limerick base.”

Executive director with the Ireland Canada Business Association, Kate Hickey, who travelled to Shannon for the event, zoned in on the personal affinities that exist between Irish and Canadian people.

“Fourteen per cent of Canadians have Irish ancestry so it’s not surprising that these affinities spill over into business or that trade between our two countries has developed so much since 1903, when Canada Life was the first Canadian company to set up in Ireland.”

Listening attentively to the proceedings, Shannon Chamber chief executive Helen Downes was busy formulating ideas for enhancing the connectivity and is planning on assessing the potential for the joint hosting of delegations in the same way as the Chamber has organised ‘visit and learn’ trips for companies in the Mid-West Lean Network to Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing facility in the UK.

“We will explore all avenues to increase trade between Ireland and Canada,” she stated.