Roman Waschuk: CUFTA isn’t grants or cash loans – it is opportunities to earn money on Canadian market

Every tenth glass of apple juice, drunk by Canadians, is made of Ukrainian concentrate. Delo.ua has asked the Ambassador of Canada in Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, what else Ukrainian businesses could need in order to find the path to Canadians’ hearts.

– How soon, after the Free Trade zone (FTZ) between our countries is in effect, can we talk about wide mutual investments and access of Ukrainian goods to Canadian market?

Ukrainian party has already done the part of its job – it has ratified the Agreement for FTZ by the Parliament. Two formal steps remain to be done by ourselves: the third ballot in the Senate and signature by the Governor General of Canada, David Lloyd Johnston. Then comes the exchange of notes on ratification and in a month the FTZ between our countries becomes effective. Thus, it should all happen during the summer. Since that moment, 99% of all quotas and duties will be eliminated and 0% rate will be applied to the exports of Ukrainian goods to Canada.

However, the question is, to what extent and how prepared the Ukrainian businesses are to use these opportunities. I would like to stress, though, that our attempts to propagate this agreement and Canada-Ukraine business forum, that was held last June, have already increased the interest in Canadian market in Ukraine and Ukrainian market in Canada. That is why we experience certain revival of our commercial relations – before the FTZ Agreement takes effect.

– Are you sure, that the FTZ between our countries will work in summer already? What if life brings nasty surprise, such as the Senate’s countervote or the Governor’s General non-signing the document?

I can assure you that no surprise is envisaged, because, when both upper and lower house make the unanimous decision, there can be no doubts.

– I agree. When can we see the first practical results of the FTZ though?

This is impossible to forecast, because it all depends on the entrepreneurs and companies from both sides, that should enjoy the privileges of the FTZ Agreement. However, I am certain, that both Canadian and Ukrainian businesses are prepared to use new trade opportunities. And, as an evidence of my words, a visit of 14 Ukrainian companies, representatives of food industry, to Canada has already been scheduled for early April. This trip is arranged within the Ukrainian Export Support Program.

Ukrainian delegation will meet Canadian importers, supermarkets’ owners, etc. And this can be considered as a preparatory step, which aims at increasing our trading volume.

– You emphasized a key point while talking about the FTZ launch: “if Ukrainian businesses are ready”. What do you think Ukrainian businesses have to do in order to increase demand for our goods? How to reach out to Canadians? Will Ukrainian goods be popular with Canadian customers?

Ukrainian businesses have to study Canadian market in the first place. For that very purpose we have launched the Canada-Ukraine Trade and Investment Support project. It has got an office in Kyiv. It also cooperates with Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Trade and Canada-Ukraine Trade and Investment Support (analytical entity of Canadian businesses). They are the ones who provide consultations to the interested companies. I.e., there is a whole structure that can orient Ukrainian businesses whether their goods have a perspective on Canadian market, what should be changed in order to attract Canadians.

By now, 9 priority groups of goods have been identified (clothing, textiles and confectionaries, machine building – milling equipment, that are in demand in Canada, dish-washers) and one service sector – the IT, which has been successfully operating between ourselves.

– This is what Canada is interested in obtaining from Ukraine. What is it Canadians have to offer to us?

By the results of the year 2016, the basis of Canadian exports to Ukraine is formed of coal and metallurgy. And the beginning of this year also shows revival of this sectors. Supplies of fish and shrimp are top second (we’re close to the ocean, after all). Then come aircrafts and aircraft components (to replace Russian parts). And this segment is very perspective, because our jointly manufactured high tech goods can be sold on the third markets. A big portion of our exports accounts for pharmaceuticals and soya (mostly seed). I have recently visited Kharkiv oblast and I was told that local specialists prefer Canadian seeds for they are cold resistant and fit good to continental climate.

A big portion of Canadian exports (almost $3.5 million) accounts for pets’ food (cats and dogs) and materials for cattle artificial insemination. By the way, a big part of Ukrainian dairy herd are Canadian descendants.

Thus, the range of exports to Ukraine is large, but we work on its extension.

– This is great that our countries plan to extend our commercial horizons. However, plans do not always coincide with reality. Who can guarantee that Canadians need Ukrainian goods? What goods from Ukraine are currently being sold in Canadian stores? Are they popular?

A Ukrainian company, before entering Canadian market, does promotional launch with engagement of certain PR-companies. I know that a Ukrainian birch sap producer is being entering Canadian market right now. They will sell their goods through one of the biggest chains of our supermarkets. And, if Canadians are going to like it, the supplies will grow.

For instance, in 2016 our country bought concentrated apple juice from a Ukrainian producer for the amount of CAD 9.5 million and your country became top second external supplier of this product. On top of that, every tenth glass of apple juice, drunk by Canadians – is made of Ukrainian concentrate.

I would like to mention honey. Ukraine can occupy this niche, because Ukrainian honey supplies to the EU are subject to quotas, while being unlimited to Canada.

– We have to be honest, though. I presume that Canadian customers got used to, for instance, American quality of goods, while our products are hardly competitive…

You are excessively humble, because there is a fair amount of Ukrainian companies, especially those who have bought modern production facilities, that can produce goods of the world’s top level. A lot of Ukrainian manufacturers also develop partnerships with Canadian distribution networks and our embassy helps with this.

– FTZ is often perceived by Ukrainian businesses as another opportunity to sell their goods. However, some experts with more strategic vision say that the Agreement should be treated as a partnership and we also have to think, how our countries can help each other. How do you think the commercial partnership between Ukraine and Canada should look like?

Canada-Ukraine Trade and Investment Support’s findings indicate that after FTZ agreements with other countries are signed, investments in both directions have doubled. The wider commercial opportunities are, the more the countries learn about the investment potential of each other.

As far as Ukraine is concerned, on the verge of 2016-2017 an investment in food industry was made – a Canadian investment fund bought 30% of shares of one of the biggest local agricultural holdings “Astarta”.

We can also see that Canadian capital comes to Ukraine through acquisition of large international entities that operate here. When I have recently visited Kharkiv, I learned that 50% of a big local outsourcing company had been purchased by the National Pension Fund of Canada. Thus, Canadian capital flows to Ukraine through many channels including indirect ones.

Currently we see the increase of project and investment interests. Talking about projects, there is a rocket project being prepared on the East Coast of Canada, with the plans to build a small space launch complex, from which Ukrainian rockets “Cyclon-4” are to be launched. The rockets are manufactured by “Pivdenmash” holding. The plan is to launch medium sized satellites to the orbit.

– But, honestly, what is Canada’s interest to the FTZ with Ukraine? What, in your opinion, the agreement gives to highly developed Canadian economy and Canadian businesses?

Indeed, we are interested in selling our goods in Ukraine. Even though Ukrainians love to cry poor, they buy a lot of luxury goods. Of course, Canadians don’t want to miss this profitable opportunity.

Apart from that, the FTZ between our countries is a gesture of economic support for Ukraine. And these are neither any grants, nor financial loans, but a real opportunity for Ukrainians to earn their living by trade with Canadian market. It is profitable for both, Canada and Ukraine.

For example, Ukrainian canned apricots could be of enormous demand in Canada, if they are cheaper than Austrian ones, because only 1% of Canadian territory harvests apricots (due to special climate conditions).
In general, the part of Ukrainian production facilities, that used to work for Russian Federation, can find their markets in Canada.

On the market of services, this exchange between our countries is being going on for a while, because it is less regulated, specifically in IT. It is hard to make precise calculations but I believe it is over $40 million on the annual basis. Canadian employers highly value knowledge and talents of Ukrainian programmers, because they don’t only support the existing systems, but also create new ones.

– In numerical terms, what is the current place of Ukraine in Canadian trade volume?

70% of Canadian commodity turnover accounts for USA, with the rest of the countries comprising 30%. As far as Ukraine is concerned, the current number is very modest – less than 1%. However, thanks to FTZ, we can reach much higher indicators, considering that every additional million wouldn’t go amiss for your country. So, we will make money step by step.

– Is such a readiness by Canada to launch FTZ with the EU and Ukraine connected with the complicated situation around Trans-pacific partnership and USA’s statements of the need to reconsider North American Free Trade Agreement?

Not at all. As far as Ukraine and the EU are concerned, the FTZ negotiations are under way for almost 6 years, while Trans-pacific partnership problems had started long before. Apart from that, both Canada and other countries understand that diversification of trade flows is a positive thing for national economy.

Of course, various processes are going on in the world, including political issues that need to be adjusted to, i.e. the Ukrainian situation with coal and metallurgical complex. Back in January 2016 Ukraine didn’t buy Canadian coal at all, whereas in a year Canada sold coal for the amount of $48 205 062. Therefore, when forecasting the future we cannot rely on the last year’s statistics.

The Canadian party doesn’t want to promise to Ukraine any sky-high results. However, if any Ukrainian company finds its market niche in Canada, it can make very quick progress, because Canadian market grows continuously and our population has substantial buying power. Canadians are especially attracted by high quality and cheap goods. So, when there is a will, there is a way.

– You mentioned a rocket project that is being done by Canada jointly with “Pivdenmash” holding. Are the investments coming from both parties?

Ukraine is a supplier of rockets and investments come from the North America. They are provided by the group of American space program engineers. This is purely commercial project to launch the satellites by the means of Ukrainian rockets, which is assisted by Canadian government and the Ministry of Transport of Canada, as this is from the shore of Canada that safe launches are possible.

– What is the term of the contract with Pivdenmash and when is the launch of the project?

You should get this information from Pivdenmash, but I think this is going to be a long term project. As for the project start is concerned, the beginning of construction of a space site is scheduled for early next year. New launches start in late 2018 – early 2019.

– And how’s our cooperation in defense and military technical sector going on?

As far as the contracts in space and aircraft industry are concerned, the first flight on AN-132 was on March, 31. The aircraft was engineered by Antonov plant for Saudi Arabia and it has got Canadian engines.

The Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Mr. Poltorak, comes to Canada in mid-April. He will sign a military cooperation agreement, which facilitates our dialog in this sector. I won’t go into details so as not to rush ahead of things.