Canadian government unfazed by EU exit as it sets up export hub in London
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, its regional vice president EMEA, said.
Bombardier Aerospace is the biggest Canadian company operating in Northern Ireland, employing nearly 5,000 people at its Belfast operation. Its decision to build the wings of its C Series jet in Belfast - a project worth £520m - marked Northern Ireland's biggest inward investment.
And Mr Wilhelm 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.
EDC, 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 firms that come to the city to raise capital and get Canadian businesses involved in commercial ventures.
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"We can now get introduced to those opportunities earlier, sooner, and therefore can bring more Canadian capabilities into those projects," Mr Wilhelm said. EDC 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.
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.