By Tom Peters

Canada’s two-way trade with Europe has been a vital and longstanding bread and butter issue for Port of Halifax. In 2013, 41 per cent of the cargo handled through the port was with Europe, making it the port’s second largest trading region. Now, with the pending free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union expected to be in place in late 2015, Port of Halifax and businesses throughout Atlantic Canada are in a position to capitalize on this agreement in various trade sectors. This agreement could be huge for the Atlantic region and because of its importance and potential boost to the regional economy, is central to this year’s discussions and conference theme at Halifax Port Days.

“The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is a milestone opportunity,” said Karen Oldfield, Halifax Port Authority’s President and CEO. “The agreement, when ratified, will provide Canada with preferential market access to over 500 million consumers in the European Union,” she said.

With over $100 million of both private and public funding invested in port infrastructure in the past three years, Halifax is ready for additional trade. “With our infrastructure projects reaching completion this year, we are well positioned to take advantage of CETA, Transpacific Partnership and Atlantic Mega-Projects,” said Oldfield. “CETA will lead to an increase in cargo activity through the Port of Halifax and we have the capacity to be Canada’s leading port with Europe.”

The $65-million Richmond Terminal project, which adds to the port’s breakbulk and general cargo capabilities, has been completed as well additions, expansions and upgrades at the port’s container terminals. Halifax’s two terminals are operating at about 40 per cent capacity and have the capability of handling over one million, twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) annually. “We have excellent connectivity with Europe. With 17 shipping lines linking Port of Halifax to Europe we are already connected to every European Union country,” Oldfield said.

Karen Oldfield is confident CETA will be a game changer for the Atlantic region. “The benefits that will come from this trade deal will touch just about every corner of our economy. It will provide new opportunities by opening new markets for Canadian businesses.” In Atlantic Canada, this will mean growth for many of the traditional industries such as seafood and forestry, explained Oldfield, and it will create new opportunities and well-paying jobs for the next generation. “Now is the time for businesses and organizations in Atlantic Canada to start preparing for CETA so they can hit the ground running once this milestone agreement comes into force,” she added.