Canada has a well-established agriculture and agri-food industry with long-standing success in the global marketplace. Canada prides itself on its systems and policies that ensure world-class production standards. The industry's best practices and well-known reputation for innovative products and high-quality food have consistently positioned it as a cornerstone of the country's economy and a driving force in international trade.
While the relative contribution of Canadian agriculture to the overall economy has been declining, the absolute size of the sector has continued to grow. The agriculture and agri-food system contributed $87.9 billion (constant 1997 dollars) or 8% to the Canadian economy and employed 2.1 million Canadians in 2006. The importance of the sector varies across the provinces, with food processing being more important in Central and Eastern Canada, and primary agriculture more important in the Prairies. In 2009, total sector export sales reached $35.2 billion, 40.5% of which were consumer-oriented products.
The EU is the world's largest importer of agricultural goods. Canada's relative market position, within the EU has a great deal to do with the EU’s market requirements. As many of its main agricultural products are also produced in Canada, Canada is often seen as a competitor to domestic goods in many EU markets. While the EU is self-sufficient for well over half of its food requirements, it must rely on imports to make up the difference.
Canada and the EU have entered into two bilateral agreements to facilitate agri-food trade. The first is the Agreement between the European Community and the Government of Canada on Sanitary Measures to Protect Public and Animal Health in Respect of Trade in Live Animals and Animal Products. The implementation of this agreement is overseen by a Joint Management Committee (JMC) co-chaired by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the European Commission’s Health and Consumers Directorate General (SANCO).
The second is the Agreement between Canada and the European Community on Trade in Wines and Spirit Drinks, which resolved past irritants in the wine and spirits sectors and solidified Canada's product access to the EU. The agreement provides a simplified certification process for Canadian wine exports to the EU and protection for Canadian and European wine and spirit geographical indications. Protection for geographical indications of Canadian wine and spirits include the Okanagan Valley, Niagara Peninsula and Canadian rye whisky. In addition, the EU benefits from the agreement's enhanced transparency provisions regarding liquor distribution systems in Canada.