Doing Business In Canada

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How to do Business in Canada

Customs & Regulations

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Most imports to Canada (except those of low pecuniary value) require a Canada customs invoice. Additional information is required for textiles. Copies of the prescribed forms can be obtained from certain commercial stationers. Commercial shipments of relatively low pecuniary value may use an ordinary commercial invoice or other document in support of the declared value of goods.

Specimen copies of the Canadian Customs invoices and bill of entry and other forms may be obtained from the Canadian High Commission. For up to date customs information for Canada please visit

Canada operates the World Customs Organisation's Harmonised System (HS) nomenclature. Tariffs are levied on the free on board (fob) value of the goods in the country of export and may be specific or ad valorem.

Special tariffs are in operation for Commonwealth countries (British Preferential schedule), USA and Mexico (NAFTA schedule) Israel and Chile. Most other countries are placed on the most-favoured-nation tariff. The remainder trade on a slightly higher general tariff schedule.

HM Revenue & Customs provides information and guides to assist you with the export process. The first line of enquiry for routine tariff classification advice down to the 6 digit Harmonised System subheading level, used worldwide is the National Advice Service (NAS). Their national helpline number is 0845 010 9000.

The Tariff Classification Service can also provide advice on tariff classification numbers. Their helpline (+44 (0)1702 366 077) is open from 09:00-17.00 on Monday to Thursday and 09.00-16.30 on Friday. A voicemail service operates outside these hours.

Classification of goods

Find out which customs procedures and reliefs apply to you

Supplementary declarations

Export declarations and the National Export System

Commercial Samples and Temporary Imports

Guide to temporary exportation from the UK

ATA Carnets

Apply for an ATA Carnet at the London Chamber of Commerce

Anti-dumping and Countervailing Duties

Guide to anti dumping and countervailing duties

Additional Taxes

Since 1 January 1991, imported goods have generally been subject to the federal VAT-style Goods and Services Tax (GST). The 5% GST, is payable on entry on the duty and excise-paid value of the goods. For GST purposes a number of goods and services are zero-rates (these goods also do not attract GST upon import). They include most agricultural and fish products, certain major purchases by farmers and fishermen, basic groceries, prescribed medical devices and prescription drugs. HST in Ontario will change with effect from July 1st, 2010 to 13%.

All products and services exported from Canada are zero-rated.

Guide to tax liabilities when exporting

Legislation and Local Regulations

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Inspection rules change frequently so exporters should check the requirements either with their customer or with the relevant pre-shipment company.

Labelling and Packaging Regulations

This is of particular importance to Canada as the country is officially bilingual. Under the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, special federal packaging and labelling requirements have to be met for pre-packaged food products and most consumer items exported to Canada. Bilingual labelling in English and French is required on all consumer products.

The regulations provide for placement of identification data, identification of the manufacturer, product information and standard quality disclosures. Additionally, many food products must also comply with strict hygiene and ingredients regulations. Some goods for personal or household use, hardware, novelties and sporting goods, paper products and clothes must be clearly marked, stamped, branded or labelled so as to indicate the country of origin.

In addition, any imported textile article must have a label affixed to it which states the textile fibre content of the article. Imported packages of tobacco, cigarettes and cigars also have special packaging and stamping requirements. For food products, the Food and Drugs Act Regulations stipulate which foods offered for sale must carry a label and also the required contents of the label. Strict requirements for pharmaceuticals also exist.

Attractive packaging is essential in Canada. Canadian law strictly regulates packaging, which must be manufactured, filed and displayed in such a manner that the consumer is not misled as to the quality or quantity of the product. Further information on the labelling of non-food products can be obtained from

For Food products, see

The Liquor control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is Canada's largest alcohol retailer, and has developed new standards for the shipping of Tetra Pak containers to ensure proper handling at every stage in the supply chain. For detailed information, visit

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved the adoption of an international measure to prevent the introduction of foreign pests through wooden packaging materials. Exemptions will be made for wood packaging originating from the continental United States. Certain other packaging products may also be exempt depending on the type, thickness or origin of the wood being used.

Export Controls and Licensing

The UK Government maintains export controls on a range of goods such as arts and antiques, Medicines and prescription drugs, chemicals, food, animals, plants and horticulture and strategic goods (including military goods, software, technology and so called dual-use items).

If items are subject to UK export controls, a license is required before they can be exported by any Means. Dependent on the nature of your goods, different government departments are responsible for issuing licences. Dependent on the export destination, sanctions and embargoes might also apply.

The export of most goods from the UK to Canada is unrestricted. Some items including arms, explosives, military equipment, atomic energy equipment, metals and minerals, antiques, works of art, diamonds, computer technology and live animals are subject to control, although sometimes temporarily.

Standards and technical regulation

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The British Standards Institution (BSI) can provide information and advice on compliance with overseas statutory and other technical requirements through their Professional Services team. BSI can supply detailed information on foreign regulations; identify, supply and assist in the Interpretation of foreign standards and approval procedures; research and consult on technical requirements for a specific product; and provide translations of foreign standards, items of legislation and codes of practice. Fees vary according to the amount of work involved. For further information visit the BSI website.

The UK National Physical Laboratory maintains detailed information on international aspects of standards, accreditation and measurement infrastructure, including more specific facts and figures for a number of countries.

The information should help exporters and investors form a view of a country's underpinning technological infrastructure, vital to trade and product quality.

Intellectual Property Rights

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Advice on matters relating to patents, designs or trade markets can be obtained from agents specialising in these fields. Names and addresses of these are provided at a small charge by the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents.

The Patent Act and Regulations define the procedures for obtaining and enforcing patent rights in Canada. Application to register a patent should be made to:

Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
Place du Portage
50 Victoria St., Room C-229 Gatineau,
Quebec K1A 0C9

For international callers:
Telephone: General enquiries: 819-934-0544
Fax: Enquiries only: 819-953-7620
Submit IP documents: 819-953-CIPO (2476)
Business Hours 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (ET) Monday to Friday

The first inventor to file a patent application for an invention is entitled to a patent for that invention. It usually takes three years from the filing of the application to the granting of a patent. Patents are granted in Canada for 20 years from the date of application. On expiry, patented inventions become public property and renewal is unavailable.

Registration of a trade mark grants the owner the exclusive right to use that trade mark throughout Canada. Trade marks are protected for 15 years from the date of registration and are renewable for 15 year periods without limitation.

IP rights are territorial, that is they only give protection in the countries where they are granted or Registered. If you are thinking about trading internationally then you should consider registering your IP rights abroad.

Source - UK Trade & Investment


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