Now is the time to diversify Canada’s export markets

Canada is a trading nation. We have always looked beyond our borders to sell our goods and, increasingly, our services. While Canadian companies do business around the world, and Canada has a broad and growing network of trade agreements, the fact remains that most of what we export is destined for the United States.

There are good and obvious reasons why Canadian companies have always looked to the U.S. market first and foremost, including language, geographic proximity and a comparable business culture. But with the uncertainties we continue to face, and our relatively small domestic market here at home, the case for diversification is clear. With countless export opportunities for companies in every sector in markets around the world, and billions of potential consumers, it just makes sense to make the leap overseas.

Since its introduction in 2018, Canada’s Export Diversification Strategy has worked to secure more opportunities for Canadian exporters and investors to help them thrive in global markets. One aspect of the Strategy is diversifying ‘who’ exports. According to Christine Tremblay, the Executive Director of the Trade Portfolio and Strategy division at Global Affairs Canada, “Canada’s export diversification efforts help to ensure a sustainable and inclusive economic future by helping more Canadians share the benefits brought by international trade. Canada’s economy is more robust and inclusive when our trade engages the full diversity of our exporters, talent, sectors, and innovation.”

CanadExport explored those efforts in our March issue focused on inclusive trade. This month, we shift gears to another part of the Strategy: diversifying where Canadian businesses export, which is more important than ever given the events of the past two years and the current global context. Uncertainties in international trade and supply‑chain challenges continue to underscore the importance of trade diversification — in other words, of spreading the risk and exporting our goods and services to as many destinations as possible. “Diversified export destinations position Canadian businesses to be better equipped to handle future disruptions in international trade,” says Tremblay.

The reality, however, is that for many businesses, looking elsewhere than south of the border is easier said than done. It takes more time and effort. There are nuances to consider and complexities to overcome. Thankfully, they don’t have to make that leap on their own. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) is there to help every step of the way.

Trade Commissioners are located in more than 160 cities worldwide and can provide you with expert advice, on‑the‑ground support, and introductions to key business contacts. And under the Export Diversification Strategy, Tremblay says, “the TCS has continually adapted to bring new, more effective service offerings to better support Canadian businesses of all sizes and help them take advantage of fast‑growing opportunities.” That includes working within the Government of Canada’s wider trade and investment team to ensure that Canadian businesses are connected with the right contacts and resources to facilitate their access to high‑growth markets and new opportunities.

The TCS, for instance, has funding programs such as CanExport SMEs, which helps Canadians companies expand into new global markets, and CanExport Associations, which helps national industry associations and trade organizations pursue international business development activities.

In addition, the TCS organizes or supports domestic and international events, business delegations and International Trade Minister‑led trade missions abroad. Companies that participate in these activities benefit from access to economic and government decision‑makers, networking opportunities with the local business community, and business‑to‑business meetings with potential customers and partners.

In April of 2022, for example, the TCS organized a trade mission in a hybrid format, with virtual programming that was open to anyone interested in four markets — Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago — while a small select group of Canadian companies were selected to participate in in‑person/in‑market programs in Guyana and Jamaica. A total of 172 companies registered for the event, nearly all of which were Canadian and almost half are clients of the TCS. A full list of upcoming events, business delegations and trade missions is available on the TCS website.

Canada is also fortunate to have amassed an almost unparalleled number of free trade agreements (FTAs) that extend to virtually every part of the globe. In this month’s feature article, you will learn about the work that the TCS’s FTA promotion team is doing to demystify these highly technical documents and get the word out to Canadian companies about the very important benefits they offer.

Elsewhere in this issue, we highlight opportunities and successes for Canadian businesses in various parts of the world. We bring you the latest installment of our Spotlight from the Field series, in which we profile the South African market and the work of Canada’s team of Trade Commissioners in Johannesburg. We also introduce you to two companies that have reaped the rewards of export diversification with the TCS’s help: a Toronto‑headquartered electricity producer that has expanded its reach into Latin America, Europe and Northeast Asia; and an Edmonton‑̩based engineering and construction company that has found success in several African countries.

Are you interested in business opportunities in global markets? Contact a Trade Commissioner to find out where your products or services are in demand and where you have potential to succeed. And keep reading to learn more about the benefits of export diversification.

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