When you’re planning to go to market
You need information on foreign business practices or responsible business conduct
Responsible business conduct
How are Canadian companies expected to operate abroad?
The Government of Canada expects Canadian companies active abroad to adhere to the principle of responsible business conduct:
- respect human rights and all applicable laws
- operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local communities
- work in a socially and environmentally responsible manner
Companies are also expected to adopt voluntary best practices and internationally respected guidelines on responsible business conduct and take measures to meet anti-corruption objectives. By integrating corporate social responsibility into your business practices, you can mitigate a variety of risks abroad, as well as increase innovation, strengthen your brand and improve your bottom line.
To learn more about Canada’s approach to responsible business conduct abroad, visit Responsible Business Conduct Abroad.
How do business relationships differ in other countries?
The usual Western business practice is to negotiate a transaction and then build a buyer-seller relationship around it. In many countries, however, this process is reversed.
One starts out by building a personal relationship with a prospective customer, and then once that relationship is established and everyone is comfortable with it the actual business negotiations can begin. While the ultimate goal of all parties is to sign a contract, the immediate objective in a relationship-based business culture is to establish the personal connections first.
For more information on responsible business conduct, consult the following resources from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS):
- Spotlight on Intercultural Business
- Spotlight on Social Responsibility
- Shining a light on corporate social responsibility
External Resources through Canada’s Network of Trade Partners -- If you want to deepen your knowledge on responsible business conduct, we recommend the following online resources (some may require payment of a fee):
- Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
You wish to verify the credibility of an organization abroad
Vetting potential partners
How can I verify that a potential partner is credible and trustworthy?
Conducting due diligence is an essential pre-condition for finding business success in foreign markets. Here a few things to keep in mind:
- Know with whom you are dealing—Always verify addresses and other contact information. If you cannot identify a potential customer or the country in which an order originates, do not proceed with the deal.
- Verify characteristics of the target market—How good is that country’s communications infrastructure? How stable are its financial systems? What level of political risk does it represent?
Can I get assistance determining if a particular company is legitimate?
It is ultimately your responsibility to make sure you are dealing with a legitimate partner, supplier, or client. However, the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) can help make this task a little less daunting.
While we are not mandated to conduct background checks, trade commissioners can provide you with a list of reputable service providers that do. In addition, the TCS conducts additional research based on public information sources, and our trade commissioners abroad can enquire about the bona fides of a potential foreign partner, supplier, or client on your behalf.
For more information on vetting potential partners, consult the following resources from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS):
External Resources through Canada’s Network of Trade Partners -- If you want to deepen your knowledge or increase your expertise on vetting potential partners, we recommend the following online resources (some may require payment of a fee):
- Export Development Canada (EDC)
You want to read up on Canada’s existing international trade agreements
Understanding trade and investment agreements
With which countries does Canada have preferred market access?
Canada’s broad and growing trade network gives your business preferred access to diverse markets all over the world. Whether it’s a free trade agreement, foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, World Trade Organization agreement, or other agreement type, discover new opportunities to expand your international footprint.
Some of Canada’s largest agreements include:
- CUSMA—Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement
- CETA—Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
- CPTPP—Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
To view all agreements, visit Trade and investment agreements and use the search tool.
- NOTE: treaty texts on these pages are provided for information purposes only; the official texts of treaties are published in the Canada Treaty Series.
Where can I learn more about the different types of agreements?
There are various agreement types available that all serve to support Canadian commercial interests abroad.
- Foreign investment promotion and protection agreements
- Free trade agreements
- Mutual recognition agreements/arrangements
- Plurilateral agreements
- World Trade Organization agreements
- Other agreement types
Trade negotiations are complex undertakings that can take years to complete. To learn more, see How trade and investment agreements develop in stages.
For more information on trade and investment agreements, consult the following resources from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS):
- Spotlight on Free Trade
- Free trade agreements: What’s in them for you?
- Why free trade is making Canadian firms stronger
- The five steps to export with free trade agreements
- Trade agreement opens more doors for Canadians in Asia‑Pacific markets
- Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement promises new opportunities for Canadian businesses
- Trade agreements bring competitive advantages for Canada’s exporters
External Resources through Canada’s Network of Trade Partners -- If you want to deepen your knowledge or increase your expertise on trade and investment agreements, we recommend the following online resources (some may require payment of a fee):
- Export Development Canada (EDC)
You need information on labelling and local content requirements
Understanding local content requirements
Do different markets have different labelling requirements?
In short, yes. Labelling regulations can vary widely between countries, so always verify which labels are required before you ship. Otherwise, your product may not clear customs if the labels do not conform to local requirements, such as product weight or electrical standards.
Markings shown on the shipping container help distinguish your goods from those of other suppliers and must conform to those on your bill of lading and other shipping documents. These may include any or all of the following:
- buyer’s name (or other form of identification agreed upon)
- point/port of entry into importing country
- country of origin identification (e.g., “Made in Canada”)
- number of packages
- gross/net weight of product (in kilograms or pounds)
- appropriate warnings or cautionary markings
Every shipping container must also contain a packing list itemizing its contents. For more information on packaging your goods for the EU marketplace, refer to:
Should I alter my product for new markets?
The product or service you sell domestically may require some changes before exporting abroad. You may wish to add, remove, or alter certain features to differentiate it from rival offerings. In certain markets, changes are needed to respond to differences in culture, tradition, standards and regulations, or economic development.
Important points to consider:
- Localization of your product—All packaging and instructions must be translated into the local language of your target market. If you are also providing service or customer support, your personnel need to engage with customers in their local language. Hiring local employees and providing proper training may be the best way to accomplish this.
- Satisfying consumer needs—It sounds obvious, but companies may overlook the importance of tailoring their product to a specific market. Price points are key. Offering smaller package sizes allows more consumers to try your goods and build market share.
To gain further insights on what is required for your target market, connect with the TCS by using Find a trade commissioner.
For more information on understanding local content requirements, consult the following resources from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS):
External Resources through Canada’s Network of Trade Partners -- If you want to deepen your knowledge on local content requirements, we recommend the following online resources (some may require payment of a fee):
- Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
You have questions about intellectual property rights
Understanding intellectual property rights
Is my company’s intellectual property protected outside of Canada?
In short, no. Every country has an intellectual property (IP) office responsible for administering their national IP system. In Canada, this role is performed by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). Registration of IP in Canada provides your business protection in Canada only. You still need to register it again in those international markets where you plan to do business.
Intellectual property rights are valuable legal tools to protect various aspects of your innovative business activities. These include:
- Trademarks—representing branding and goodwill
- Patents—representing technology and technological improvements
- Copyrights—representing all original forms of creative works and their expressions
- Industrial designs—representing a product’s shape, look and configuration
How can I protect my company’s IP assets abroad?
Below are some general steps to follow when protecting IP assets.
- Learn the basics of IP rules and laws—Understanding IP where your business is based and where you intend to do business will help you save time and money. A useful resource is the World Intellectual Property Organization.
- Take stock of your IP assets—Learn about which of the various types of IP assets you hold and how you can benefit from them.
- Develop an IP strategy—Leverage IP to help you achieve your business goals. IP can provide a foundation for international mergers, joint ventures, or R&D agreements.
- Search international IP databases—Focus on your markets of interest to identify potential partners, competitors, and avoid infringement. To find a national IP office, visit the Directory of Intellectual Property Offices.
- Protect your IP rights—The formal IP system can be complex, so seek professional guidance from an IP specialist.
- Properly mark your products and services—Indicate your IP rights on products and packaging (e.g., trademarks, patents, copyrights and industrial designs).
- Prevent infringement—When conflict arises, aim for a negotiated settlement. In many foreign jurisdictions, IP litigation should be taken as a last resort.
The realm of IP can be legally complex, so visit CIPO and use IP Agent Search to find a registered trademark agent or a patent agent. You may qualify for financial support in paying legal fees through the CanExport program.
For more information on protecting your IP in a global digital environment, consult the following resources from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS):
- Patents: Fueling the fire of genius
- E-commerce - Grow your business presence
- Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting – The Fine Print – Understanding the legal side of international trade
External Resources through Canada’s Network of Trade Partners -- If you want to deepen your knowledge or increase your expertise about intellectual property rights, we recommend the following online resources (some may require payment of a fee):
- Export Development Canada (EDC)
- Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
- Intellectual Property of Canada (IPIC) – Online learning
‘Get Help Now’ - If you have an urgent export situation in a foreign market.
‘Contact Us’ - If you are already doing business internationally, or if you are ready to start exporting, and would like to discuss your strategy for one or more target markets.
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