Belfast Telegraph

Canadian agency undeterred by Brexit as it opens London office

Canada's export credit agency will open its first London office this week, saying it is confident the UK will remain a global gateway for international business despite Britain voting to quit the European Union.

Plans for Export Development Canada's (EDC) UK hub were unveiled in early 2015 in the hope of taking advantage of the country's links to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Stephen Wilhelm, regional vice president EMEA at EDC, said.

He stressed that the benefits of operating via London haven't changed, even in light of Brexit.

"The Canadian companies that have invested in the UK, and are using the UK as a beachhead into Europe, into Africa, into wherever they may be selling into - that continues," he said.

The credit agency, which is wholly owned by the Canadian government, aims to support Canadian trade by providing services such as insurance and export financing to Canadian businesses, their subsidiaries and international partners.

Through its London operation, EDC hopes to gain access to companies that come to the city to raise capital and get Canadian businesses involved in commercial ventures.

"We can now get introduced to those opportunities earlier, sooner, and therefore can bring more Canadian capabilities into those projects," Mr Wilhelm said.

The export credit agency would also aim to build partnerships with Britain's financial institutions, he said, adding that London's reputation as a global financial centre was not yet under threat.

"We would expect places like Frankfurt or Paris to grow in importance in terms of their financial services sector but we certainly don't expect London to be wiped off the map, because of its talent pool, (and) its infrastructure," Mr Wilhelm said.

Although the EDC will keep a close eye on UK negotiations of so-called "passporting" rights which allow financial institutions to operate across the single market, Mr Wilhelm says his team "certainly expects London will remain a (financial) hub".

However, trade with the UK is expected to take a hit.

The agency has revised down forecasts for bilateral trade with the UK, which is expected to be 8% lower as a result of the EU referendum, by 2018. The UK is Canada's third largest trade partner, behind the US and China.

Brexit has also thrown the UK's membership in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement into question. The trade agreement, which is due to be signed in October, would eliminate a number of trade tariffs between Canada and the EU.

Mr Wilhelm says the EDC is waiting to see the results of those negotiations.

Nonetheless, the EDC says it is in a position to take a "long-term view" on the UK economy following the Brexit vote and "sees the potential for stronger trade links" between the two countries in the future.