OTTAWA, March 4 Canada's Conservative government pledged on Thursday to become the first G20 country to permanently eliminate all import tariffs on inputs for manufacturers by 2015, and most cuts will take effect immediately.
The tariff cuts on things like raw materials will save companies about C$300 million ($290 million) in a unilateral move that Ottawa sees as one of the boldest measures in its 2010 budget.
"Canada, as a nation whose prosperity is greatly dependent on trade, clearly understands the importance of open markets," the budget said.
Business investment has lagged in Canada despite a tariff cut in last year's budget on imports of machinery and equipment.
Companies held back from new investments in the fourth quarter, according to Statistics Canada data that showed surprisingly strong quarterly growth of 5 percent, annualized.
The new measures will reduce the number of items subject to import duties ranging from 2 percent to 15.5 percent to 381 items from 1,541 items as of March 5, and that number will fall to zero by 2015.
At that time, the only imports subject to duties in Canada will be supply managed goods in the agricultural sector and consumer products.
The government said its pre-budget consultations showed that small and mid-sized businesses were enthusiastic about the tariff cuts, which will cut costs and paperwork. ($1 = $1.03 Canadian) (Reporting by Louise Egan, editing by Janet Guttsman)