Ukraine and Canada: A History of Settlement and a Future for Investment

emerging europe ukraine

Read the Outlook on Ukraine special report


Roman Waschuk

About Roman Waschuk

Roman Waschuk is Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine. He began his career with the Department of External Affairs in 1987. First posted as second secretary (political) in Moscow, he subsequently served as counsellor (political) in Kyiv and counsellor (political) and minister-counsellor (political/economic) in Berlin. He also served as Ambassador to Serbia, with concurrent accreditation to Macedonia and Montenegro. He graduated from the University of Toronto (MA in History).

I have been in Ukraine since October 2014; I arrived soon after the Revolution of Dignity began.

The revolution created both a strong desire for reform and a call for social justice, but at the same time it also led to the occupation of Crimea and the beginning of the Russian-backed aggression of Donbas. As a result, Ukraine has needed to deal with a very broad range of challenges, and all at the same time. This has meant that despite the efforts of many ambitious and smart people, reforms haven’t moved as quickly as many Ukrainians had hoped. Nevertheless, more has been done in these past three years than in the previous twenty-four years. It’s certainly encouraging and we’re beginning to see the results now.

On the economic side, we can see the growth going ahead in bounds. Ukraine did not have a viable army in 2014; certainly not one that was combat worthy. Civil society and the population stepped in to remedy much of that, and the state has been catching up. It plays more a role as a deterrent, which we hope will make a peaceful solution more viable.

Obviously, many issues remain outstanding both with Russia, for example, as well as the international court and the challenge that was launched at the beginning of March in the Hague is evidence of that. Ukraine’s relationship with the EU continues to be redefined and Canada has been a strong partner throughout.

Our economic relations are fairly modest. In terms of exports from Canada, 2016 was a record year and the best since 1991, reaching 265 million Canadian dollars. According to our statistics, Ukraine’s exports to Canada were 107 million Canadian dollars. We are confident that more can be done now, with our Canada-Ukraine free-trade agreement.

The International Trade Centre in Geneva did a study, and Canada ended up in the top ten underserved markets when it comes to Ukraine, in terms of not fully using the existing potential. Because of that we believe that both the attention and the publicity surrounding the free-trade agreement, as well as the provisions of the document itself, will help remedy that. In order to help that process along, we’ve launched a Canada-Ukraine Trade Investment Support Project with the Conference Board of Canada and the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce which aims to help build Ukraine’s capacity to use these opportunities.

I think the other key element, which is not yet covered by the current version of our free-trade agreement, is trade in services but we are open to negotiating this over the next couple of years. When it comes to Canada, certainly sales of software and computer services probably are, by all accounts, greater than goods’ exports at this point, both in terms of product development, outsourcing and maintenance. There is a lot of activity, and sales into Canada. Certainly, I would say over 100 million Canadian dollars a year, if not 150 million.

Thanks to the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada there’s a widespread awareness of Ukrainians, and by extension, Ukraine. It’s not something you need to explain to most Canadians. That makes Canada a little different from many other countries, and it means there are already people there with cultural empathy and openness to the market.

On the other hand, it also comes with some disadvantages. Some of these people, with personal links to Ukraine, tried to do business in the early years, of the 90s. Many of those business ventures did not work in the Wild West atmosphere that existed at the time and the bad memories of some of those smaller-scale (and larger-scale) problems persist. So, we need to overcome those. In the past year and a half we’ve seen the arrival of major Canadian players, such as Fairfax Financial, investing in Ukraine. We’re seeing bigger players with deeper pockets who are willing to take on board the Ukrainian risk in order to also take advantage of the Ukrainian opportunities.

I am of Ukrainian origin myself. I was born in Toronto and I lost some of my illusions about Eastern Europe there. I try to encourage people in Canada, from whatever background, to take a realistic view of the market.

Does Ukraine have an image problem? I think there’s no doubt that there are perception issues out there. In territorial terms, the military conflict concerns approximately about seven per cent of the country, if we include both Crimea and the Donbas, and three per cent, if just the Donbas. Certainly, one of the things that I remind my Canadian country people about is that it is 1,300 km from the western border to the line of contact in the conflict zone, and that’s a very long distance, indeed.


The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.


A Roadmap for Reform in Ukraine and a Promise of EU Support

Ukraine Outsourcing’s Value is Now in its Technological Expertise and Reliability

Protecting Intellectual Property to Encourage Business Confidence

Legal Reforms are Improving the Existing Problematic Situation in the Ukrainian Agro Market

ukraine agriculture

Military Operations in Ukraine Have Had Some Surprisingly Positive Side Effects for Modern Businesses

Night city reflection on the river in Donetsk. Ukraine

Ukrainian Venture Investment Market Is Immature and Needs Growth

Finalising the DCFTA is Expected to Bring Multiple Benefits to Ukraine

Ukraine’s Reputation for Cheap Labour May Not Ring True in the Long-term

See the New Ukraine and Benefit From the Best by Partnering or Investing in IT

Engineer proceeding to data recovery from computer

History as Destiny? Institutional Erosion in Ukraine and Poland

Falling into Old Ways in 2017? Ukraine’s Struggle for Functioning Economic Institutions

Ukraine’s Pro-change Atmosphere Says “Welcome!”

lviv emerging europe

Poland’s Business Experience Makes it a Good Neighbour to Ukraine

Leszek Balcerowicz: Ukraine Can Learn from Poland’s Economic History

Anti-corruption Efforts Are the Starting Point for Further Reforms

Energy Tariff Reform in Ukraine: Estimated Effects and Policy Options

The Eurovision Song Contest Is a Perfect Showcase for Ukraine’s Talent and Warmth

The Political Economy of Independent Ukraine: Late Starts, False Starts, and Last Chance?

There Is a Move Towards Change in Ukraine

Ukraine’s Banking Sector Reconstruction Brings Asset Sales and Opportunities in Equal Measure

Gavel and Ukrainian hryvnias on a wooden table

Past Troubles Belie the Opportunities for Investment

Denmark in Ukraine: Fostering a Better Business Climate for Both Sides

‘Viking’ is Yet Another Way to Annoy Ukraine

Office Space Remains Available in Kyiv

Ukraine’s Tech Sector Is Booming but Needs Awareness and Confidence

ukraine tech emerging europe

The Human Factor is Boosting Ukraine’s Promising IT Export Sector

The Innovation District IT Park Will Help Lviv Become CEE’s IT Hub

IT park lviv ukraine

Ukraine’s Government Declares Ambitious Privatisation Targets

Between the East and West, Geographically and Politically

Thinking Big; Working Hard; Delivering Value to Clients and Building Relationships

quartsoft emerging europe outsourcing

Ukraine’s Talented Students Are Well Served by Its Diversified Business Relevant Education

ukraine IT

The Ukrainian Banking Sector Looks Set to Regenerate New Growth

Kyiv’s Mayor Is Used to Fighting to Attract Attention and Interest

KIEV UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 8 2016: The facade of Kievrada the City Council located in Khreshchatyk Avenue on September 8 in Kiev.

Changes Are Needed in Ukraine’s Economy and Business to Catch up with CEE Growth

Western Ukraine Could Be an Entry Point into the Country

Ukrainian Start-up Projects Recognised in the International Market but Still More Investors Needed

Startup Diversity Teamwork Brainstorming Meeting Concept

SMEs Should Play an Important Role in the Economy and Export Development

Europe’s Breadbasket Offers Opportunities for Investment and Diversification

Ukraine Is Energy Independent in Some Sectors and Awaiting Change in Others

A Very Good Prospect for Future Biogas Development

Maidan Three Years On—What Has Changed for Ukraine?

Ukraine Returns to the Fold

LVOV UKRAINE - APRIL 25: Workers masons laid paving stones in the repair of the main street on April 25 2013 in Lviv Ukraine

Start Making Connections for the Opportunities Ukraine is Currently Offering

Kharkiv region Ukraine - July 29 2016: Combine harvests wheat on a field in Kharkiv region Ukraine on July 29 2016

Ukraine Is Offering Europe Unique Combat and Technological Experience

FocusEconomics: Predicting an Increase for the Ukrainian Economy

Ukraine’s Gas Industry Risks Stagnation Without Investment

Ukrainian Agribusiness — a Jewel in a Crown

Wheat ukraine agriculture ebrd

From a Small Family Firm to a Top 100 Global Outsourcing Company

Danish companies Support and Assist Ukraine’s Economic Transition

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark Lars Lokke Rasmussen during a meeting in Kiev Ukraine

Ukraine’s Economy in 2017 — When Dreams of Growth Meet Geopolitical Reality

Naftogaz: A Good Start Has Slowed But Optimism Remains High

Closeup of pressure meter on natural gas pipeline with people on the background

Lviv Is the Pearl and the Soul of Ukraine

The Stalled Conflict in Ukraine Will be Formalised

Changes Are Making Ukrainian Banking More Aligned with International Standards

Longstanding Early Investors Say Ukraine Offers Foreign Manufacturers Great Prospects

ukraine manufacturing

The Dilemmas of Ukraine’s Economic Policy

Ukraine’s NIX Solutions Expands to Israel and Beyond

European Volatility Makes Economic Development Slower for Ukraine

Ukraine Continues to Make Waves as an IT Outsourcing Destination

Steps to Stability Marred by a Failure to Attract FDI

Governmental Support is Vital to Fight Corruption

Business Moving Forward with Cautious Optimism — Can Investors Win the Confidence Game?

Sirin Software — A Ukrainian Firm Conquering Global Markets

  1. Hi, Ukraine seeks partnerships but within the European continent. It’s the only goal. there is no benefit to Ukraine to a country like Canada. We have more family connections with oiur neighbours such as Poland which is our real goal UK, Germany and EU is Where we want to be and will always still work with our brothers of Russian federation. This will never change. But who wants Canada? It may as well be on the moon. Can you imagine how much a ticket to Canada and the time it takes to travel there?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *