MONTREAL - European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says a lack of awareness in Canada and a wave of anti-globalization nationalism abroad may be contributing to the country's sluggish start to seizing opportunities in the Canada-EU trade accord.

Malmstrom tells the Canadian Press that getting information to companies, especially small businesses, remains the "biggest hurdle."

The trade czar says a wave of nationalist and populist governments in Europe threatens to stall ratification of the deal -- applied provisionally for the past year. Experts say uncertainty surrounding the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement may also deter companies from investing in Canada or expanding beyond its shores.

Figures from Statistics Canada show Canadian exports to the European Union grew just one per cent year-over-year in the first 10 months after implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA. EU imports, however, shot up more than 12 per cent between October and July, compared to the same period in 2016-17.

Malmstrom arrived in Montreal Wednesday for her first meeting with International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr as well as the first joint committee meeting of CETA.

She said a timeline for ratification by all 28 EU member states remains elusive, with Italy's seven-month-old populist government casting doubt on the deal. The trade commissioner and the minister are slated to address the Montreal International Relations Council (CORIM) Thursday afternoon on the subject of "International trade in troubled times.