Exports to Canada: What needs to be considered?

Canada is the ninth largest economy in the world. The country has a strong banking system and is also recognized for its ease to do business. Canadian consumers and businesses are open to new products and this can create great opportunities for Swiss exporters. Since 2009, Switzerland and its ETFA partner-countries have a free trade agreement with Canada. Consequently, customs duties on most products have since been eliminated. But what do you need to consider when exporting to Canada?

Canada Exports

Required documentation for exporting to Canada

a)    Commercial invoice

The commercial invoice is the main document required for customs clearance it must always include the following information: date, seller’s and buyer’s addresses, product description, number of units, currency, unit price, total price, shipping details, country of origin, terms of payment and terms of delivery (Incoterms).

Shipments exceeding CAD2,500 by a Canada customs invoice (CCI) or an equivalent commercial invoice. Swiss exporters can use their own commercial invoice template instead of the CCI, as long as all the information required on the CCI is provided on the document.

If freight and insurance costs are paid by the Swiss exporter and included in the sales price, it is recommended to indicate freight and insurance costs separately on the invoice. Unlike in Europe, the declared value considered by Canadian customs is the transaction value (or sales price), which excludes freight and insurance costs.

Regardless of their value, if the goods comply with the Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement’s rules of origin, the following origin declaration must be inserted on the commercial invoice in order to benefit from the duty-free treatment:

«The exporter of the products covered by this document [customs authorization No. ...] declares that, except where otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of Canada/EFTA preferential origin.
.................................................. Place and date
.................................................. Signature and printed name of the exporter

The HS code (Harmonized System) may be shown on the invoice, preferably the first six digits, unless the full 10-digit Canadian HS code is known.

b)    Packing list

Providing a detailed packing list is recommended to facilitate potential customs inspection and/or eventual cargo claims.

c)    Food imports

All food and plant imports must be cleared through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in addition to the CBSA. The CFIA administers the Safe Food for Canadians Act, which requires all food importers to have an SFC license.

d)    Standards

Canadian standards apply on many products like the CSA or UL standards, similar to the C.E. standard. The source of information for this is the Standards Council of Canada:

e)     Others

Other documents may be necessary depending on the nature of the goods and/or if requested by the customer, like health certificates, phytosanitary certificates, etc.

Detailed information on the import formalities in Canada applicable to your products is also available in our free customs database.

Sanctions / Embargoes / Export Controls

At the time of writing, there are no sanctions or embargoes in place against Canada. However, this can change at any time, which is why we recommend that you clarify before each export whether corresponding measures have been imposed. Certain products and product groups, such as dual-use items, also require an export license for delivery to non-sanctioned countries.

S-GE tips

a)    Incoterms

In principle, all Incoterms clauses can be used for deliveries to Canada. However, DDP is demanding as it puts all responsibilities and costs on the exporter’s shoulders, who then becomes a “non-resident importer”.

It requires careful planning and consideration through a trade adviser, customs broker and/or accountant, obtaining an importer number, registering for GST, etc.

b)    Terms of payment

Canadian customers may object to paying for goods in advance and Swiss exporters may not want to extend credit, at least at the beginning of a business relationship. In this case, it is advisable to request the opening of an irrevocable Documentary Letter of Credit (UCP600 rules) by the customer before shipping goods. Another good option, though slightly less secure, would be to work on a Cash Against Document or Documentary Collection basis (URC 522 rules).  

All information is provided for guidance only and is neither exhaustive nor legally binding


If you have any questions or require further information, please contact the ExportHelp team at Switzerland Global Enterprise at or tel. 0844 811 812.


Export Guide Canada

Checklist Canada
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