Import regulations and customs duties
Canada applies the Harmonised Customs System. On average, customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods. The Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for customs operations.
The average rate of the customs duty is 7.2 %, but it might be pointed out that certain sectors are still relatively protected (food up to 30 %, textiles and clothing items up to 21 %). Also, within the framework of import quotas transformation into tariff contingents, about 130 products (mostly farm products) are subject to different rates either if they are imported within the framework of the contingent defined in the beginning of the year, or if they are imported after exhaustion of the assigned contingents (in that case, the rates are generally prohibitive).
Canada also signed a certain number of customs agreements, and especially the ALENA agreements with the USA (suppression of almost all the customs duties) and Mexico (in a transition period until 2009), and bilateral agreements with Chile and Israel granting them the preferential rates.
You can access the most recent Customs Tariff (2006) here.
Excise duty is collected on gasoline, alcohol drinks, tobacco and jewellery. Each State also levies some provincial taxes that they are free to fix up.
Canada's vast geographical size, some 10 million square kilometers, is cause for the absence of a single country-wide distribution network, and has led to the formation of small distribution circuits catering to separate markets; the Canadian federal system thus renders this market not as a single entity, but rather a juxtaposition of several markets each with its own legislation. The difficulties in accessing the various regions and the unique characteristics of each one makes it complex to promote any product in this market. The principal markets in the country are Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The national authority for control and regulation of consumption in Canada is the Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs.
The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
Canada's standard of living is one of highest in the world. Canadians consume much and save little (the rate of net household savings was 1.42% in 2004, the same as that of the U.S.A.).
The food sector is very much consolidated and is dominated by a few big groups, notably national chains like Sobey and Loblaw in addition to America's Wal-Mart. These companies (with the exception of Wal-Mart) are part of the CCDA (Canadian Council of Food Distributors) whose members generated a total sales turnover of 77.8 billion Canadian dollars.
Thus, there are two main categories of stores: supermarkets on the one hand, and neighbourhood stores or small general-purpose stores called “mini-markets” or "convenience stores" on the other hand.
The Business to Business (B to B) market
Imported products are generally brought into the country by importer-distributors, agents or directly by specialized retailers. Canadian importers are very demanding, especially regarding on-time delivery of goods and quality of service. As in the USA, contractual procedure is of great importance in Canada. It plays a greater role than even statutory framework. It is preferable to deal with wholesale importers. It is important for those who want to do business in Canada to hire the services of a lawyer to get legal advice as per the laws of the country so as to avoid problems one may face at the time of the execution of the contract.
The franchise system of distribution is very much operational in Canada and employs 3% of the country’s population. In the year 2004, there were 1,350 franchise systems with 76,000 outlets in the country. Franchises are regulated by the provincial laws.
Transportation of goods
The public organisation, in charge of standards is the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). It does not formulate them but accredits to private bodies and co-ordinates their activities: the union gathering these entities is the National Standard System. The main entities for normalisation are: the Canadian Standards Association (C.S.A) , the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (U.L.C), the Canadian General Standards Board (C.G.S.B) and the Normalization Bureau of Quebec. The standards may differ from province to province.
Patents and brands
The organisation responsible for the intellectual property in Canada is the Office of Intellectual Property of Canada (OIPC)