A couple of weeks ago a new EU-Canada trade agreement, known as CETA, came into force. If you're involved in a business that already exports to Canada, or is considering doing so, it's time to crack open the champagne.
Why? Well, if you export goods, CETA is the tariff beater - you no longer have to pay Canadian customs duties on 98% of all products from day one, saving your company money and allowing you to compete more effectively. You'll face simpler procedures at Canadian customs too, or at EU customs if you're importing from Canada. And in many cases the technical requirements you'll need to meet will be more compatible.
If you supply services, you can now operate in more industries in Canada, in everything from telecoms to transport. And your EU-based staff can work in Canada more easily - for example, to provide after-sales service.
Whatever your business, you'll now be able to bid for public contracts at every level of government. You can invest in Canadian companies, or secure Canadian investment, more easily. And you can sell your product or service in Canada safe in the knowledge that your intellectual property will be even better protected than before.
I've already received questions on Twitter from several companies keen to take advantage of the agreement but unsure where to start. So here are two great online tools that the European Commission can offer you. The first is the Market Access Database, or MADB. If you're exporting goods to Canada you can find out about the paperwork you'll have to fill in for Canadian customs, and, if you're exporting food or drink, the animal and plant health and food safety requirements you'll have to meet.
The second is the EU Trade Helpdesk. If you're importing goods from Canada into Europe, this provides similar information for your product as the MADB.
In addition, we've produced a brochure for businesses that summarises what the agreement offers, chapter by chapter.
You'll also find lots of information and advice from the national export promotion agency in the EU country in which you're based. Here's a list of their websites.
If you're looking for inspiration, you can read about the CETA champions: ten small and medium-sized companies - from yacht-makers to waste recyclers - that are looking to make the most of CETA, as well as six food and drink businesses also set to gain from the deal.
CETA builds on an already close trading relationship between the EU and Canada. Canada is the EU's tenth biggest trading partner. Over 70,000 EU companies export to Canada, of which almost 80% are smaller firms - ones with fewer than 250 staff. And over 860,000 jobs in the EU are tied to exports to Canada.
So I'm excited that CETA is now up and running. I'm convinced it can help this relationship to flourish, with more EU companies exporting more to Canada, and creating more higher-paying jobs in the process. That's a result we can all toast.