“Canada and Portugal’s collaboration is increasingly focussing on the industries of the future”

Élise Racicot, Canada’s Ambassador to Portugal, told Pontos de Vista magazine about the current relations between the two countries and the positive impacts of their collaboration in the present and, essentially, in the future.

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To begin with, as Canada’s Ambassador to Portugal, what has been your main mission and what goals are you trying to achieve along the way?
Since arriving in Portugal, now one and a half year ago, I’ve had the opportunity to experience firsthand the excellent state of the Canada-Portugal relationship, anchored in centuries-old friendship, common values and multiple people-to-people ties. There are exciting opportunities to deepen and diversify, as we look to the future.
In an increasingly polarized world that is facing unprecedent challenges, with wars and global economic instability, we need to reinforce our relationships with our natural allies and work together to achieve common goals.
In that context, I am working for both our countries to increase collaboration in search of solutions to the urgent challenges that affect us all – whether it’s climate change, the transition to green energy, protecting the oceans, migration and refugee issues, promoting human rights or maintaining a rules-based international order and conflict resolution.

In the context of growing global interconnectedness, Canada has emerged as an attractive destination for international investment. To better understand this, what are the main attractive points that Canada offers foreign investors?
Canada continues to position itself as very attractive destination for companies looking to expand internationally, leveraging a business-friendly environment, strong banking system, global connectivity through 15 FTAs, highly educated workforce, strong government support for R&D and innovation and a progressive immigration system. Our government’s commitment to clean energy and Canada’s natural resource endowment, including access to reliable clean energy, is making Canada one of the leading investment destinations in the energy transition sector, including the Electrical Vehicle (EV) and critical minerals supply chains.
The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), in place since 2017, opens many news doors for trade and investment. It contributed to an impressive 371% growth in bilateral trade in goods since 2016 and has opened the doors to Portuguese companies to expand abroad via investment, by opening the market for services, facilitating the mobility of professionals, providing access to public contracts, and encouraging investment in both markets.

Economic diversification is essential for a country’s sustainable development. So, how has the Embassy of Canada to Portugal collaborated with local entities to promote greater diversification of Portuguese investments in Canada, especially in key sectors?
Investment is a very dynamic element of our relationship, a testament to the maturity of our relationship and the attractiveness of our markets. Many Portuguese companies have chosen Canada to set up and grow their North American operations, leveraging some of Canada’s advantages mentioned earlier. These investments are in a broad spectrum of industries, including plastics packaging, automotive components, renewable energy, and forest products, amongst others. Building on these investments and strong ties in traditional industries, such as wine, textiles, footwear and agrifood, we are increasingly forging new ties in the industries of the future. We are looking for new solutions to decarbonize our economies, through trade and collaboration in hydrogen and renewable energies. We are connecting our respective technology communities and innovation ecosystems, in areas such as AI, space and aerospace and cybersecurity. We are leveraging science, technology and commercial partnerships to grow our sustainable blue economies, while also looking at protecting the oceans.

We know that Canada is known for its strong culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. How do you currently see cooperation between innovative Portuguese companies and the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem, thus encouraging bilateral investment in this field?
Trade remains a cornerstone of our bilateral relationship and has grown to include close to four billion (Canadian) dollars in goods and services every year! As mentioned earlier, Canada and Portugal’s collaboration is increasingly focussing on the industries of the future but also to the new geopolitical and climatic realities and priorities. As hydrogen, EV, renewable energies, and technology, including AI, are increasingly called to be the backbone of our economies and sustainable economic growth, we are working to connect our respective industries, academic and innovation communities to in these areas. Trade shows and conferences, such as Web Summit, Collision, Lisbon Energy Summit, PDAC and World Ocean Summit, to name a few, have been a great platform to create these bridges. Further opportunities for R&D collaboration are created through Eureka, of which Canada became a full member in 2022 and Horizons, which Canada joining as an associate country late 2023.

Political and legal stability is also fundamental for long-term foreign investment. To what extent, therefore, does the Embassy of Canada to Portugal convey confidence to investors about the regulatory and legal environment in Canada, thus ensuring an environment conducive to safe and profitable investments?
Political and legal stability stands as an indispensable pillar for fostering long-term engagement. We work with Portuguese companies, associations, and government to help navigate and understand the Canadian business and economic landscape, first and foremost by helping establish relationships early on with key Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal economic actors. These relationships are key to understanding the local business, political and regulatory environment and hearing firsthand from those on the ground, including other Portuguese and EU-based investors. Also, CETA established special committees that look at ways to improve the trade relationship, including reviewing any issue concerning trade and investment between the Parties. This ongoing dialogue allows to engage on new and developing challenges and further helps provide stability and predictability for EU businesses interested in Canada.

In addition to financial incentives and stability, sustainability and corporate social responsibility are increasingly at the center of investors’ concerns. How does Canada address these issues and how has the Embassy of Canada to Portugal promoted the values of sustainability and social responsibility among Portuguese investors interested in the Canadian market?
Canada is proactive in addressing sustainability and social responsibility, both in the country and in its international relations, by having in place policies and initiatives to promote sustainability and responsible business practices, such as environmental regulations, support for renewable energy projects, or incentives for companies. With regards to Canadian companies operating abroad, our government expects Canadian companies to respect human rights, diversity and inclusion, and gender equality, and remain committed to climate change targets, operate transparently, and work in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, while respecting applicable laws.
The Embassy helps to strengthen ties by facilitating partnerships, sharing information, and advocating for collaborations in areas such as clean technology, renewable energy and the oceans, encouraging investment in sectors that align with Canada and Portugal’s shared vision and objectives of energy transition and sustainable economic growth.

Finally, in the face of rapid technological change, environmental pressures and evolving geopolitical dynamics, how does the Embassy of Canada to Portugal envision the future of economic cooperation between the two countries and what strategies are being considered to ensure sustainable and mutually beneficial long-term growth?
We are focused first and foremost on what unites our two countries, including our democratic values, our interest in defending a rules-based world order, our transatlantic relations, and strong people-to-people ties, which translate into shared concerns on pressing global issues including climate change, oceans conservation, green energy transition and energy security, as well as the importance of building inclusive and tolerant societies. We are fostering collaboration in the industries of the future, from hydrogen and renewable energies as vectors for decarbonization, to technology, including cybersecurity and AI, as tools to build more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable economies. As Atlantic forms the backbone of our joint history and our identities, our efforts are increasingly focussed on generating partnerships in this strategic sector.