span style=”font-size:85%;”(Minister of International Trade)/spanbr /span style=”font-size:85%;”/spanbr /The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, announced today that the free trade agreement (FTA) with the states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – has received Royal Assent. The agreement is on track to come into effect on July 1, 2009.br /br /“Trade is extremely important to Canada’s continued prosperity,” said Minister Day.br /br /“Implementing this agreement – the first free trade agreement Canada has ever completed with European countries – will open more doors for Canadian producers and exporters by increasing their access to the wealthy and sophisticated EFTA markets.”br /br /Canada’s producers and exporters will benefit immediately from the elimination of duties on all Canadian non-agricultural merchandise exports upon entry into force of the FTA. Tariffs will also be eliminated or reduced on selected Canadian agricultural exports such as durum wheat, frozen french fries, beer and crude canola oil. As well, Canadian companies will be able to access innovative technologies and other inputs from EFTA markets at lower costs, including through the importation of machinery and scientific and precision instruments.br /br /“This agreement will provide not only a strategic opportunity for Canadian companies to tap directly into EFTA value chains, but also indirect access to the European Union,” said Minister Day. “The Government of Canada is committed to opening up new markets for Canadian business and expanding existing ones. During this period of extraordinary global economic challenges and uncertainty, it is more important than ever that we pursue international trade opportunities.”br /br /Together, the EFTA countries were Canada’s seventh-largest merchandise export destination in 2008. Canada exported $4.2 billion in merchandise to the EFTA countries in 2008, with two-way merchandise trade valued at $13.2 billion.