British Prime Minister heads to Ottawa in search of trade deal with Canada

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives in Ottawa today in pursuit of a post-Brexit trade deal with Canada.

Prime Minister May’s visit to Canada’s capital comes just days ahead of the European Union (EU) / Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) taking effect on September 21. The office of Prime Minister May has said that the British Government is seeking a similar bilateral trade agreement with Canada after the country vote to pull out of the EU.

In a briefing note provided to journalists ahead of the visit to Canada, the U.K. government said Prime Minister May will hold talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on “cementing a strong trade and investment partnership.”

The U.K. is the second biggest destination for Canadian investment abroad, after the U.S., and the bilateral trade relationship is worth $25 billion to both economies each year, according to the U.K. government briefing note.

“My visit to Canada is not only about recognizing our past but also looking ahead to our bright future,” said Prime Minister May in a statement. “We are both countries with ambitions to lead on the world stage and progressive values that underpin those ambitions — values including the importance of free trade, and respect for international law.”

In closed door sessions to be held in Ottawa, the two leaders are expected to agree that CETA has “significant potential to boost transatlantic prosperity — and should be swiftly transitioned to form a new bilateral arrangement between the U.K. and Canada after Brexit.” CETA, which eliminates 98 percent of Canadian import duties, will be provisionally applied in the EU starting this Thursday (September 21).

The British Government is asking every country with which it currently has a trade deal as a member of the EU to adopt the same terms as it transitions out of the bloc after March 2019, Prime Minister May revealed during a visit to Japan in August.

A new working group to transition Canada’s new trade deal with the EU into a deal with the U.K. after Brexit will be agreed on this week, the statement from Prime Minister May’s office said. The new U.K. / Canadian working group will be the 13th established to tackle post-Brexit trade deals since Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016.

Prime Minister May will also host a roundtable with Canadian businesses while in Ottawa, with a raft of commercial deals announced to coincide with her visit. These include the expansion of Vancouver-based social media company Hootsuite in London, the expansion of Tesco’s product range to 100 west coast supermarkets by the end of this year, and a $56.3 million contract with construction and project management company Turner & Townsend to oversee refurbishment of part of the Canadian Parliament buildings.