Each day TFO Canada publishes a sample of trade news on the Canadian import market along with any new, updated or changed regulations and legislations regarding international trade; countries in which TFO Canada offers services and on the export sectors which it promotes.
Expanded Trade Urged for CanadaWednesday, April 16, 2014 > 10:43:08
(Winnipeg Free Press – Martin Cash)
Canada is in the midst of the most ambitious trade-expansion plan in the country's history, and this time policy-makers and politicians want to make sure small- and medium-sized businesses are invited to the party.
Canada recently completed free-trade agreements with the European Union and South Korea and is in the process of negotiating deals with India and Japan, which means barriers to entry to markets around the world are falling for Canadian goods and services.
In a couple of speeches in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Ed Fast, Canada's minister of international trade, said Ottawa is marshalling its resources to hone in on opportunities for Canadian businesses in markets around the world.
"One of the critical elements of this strategy," he said in a speech to the World Trade Centre organization, "is a renewed focus on supporting and encouraging small- and medium-sized businesses to explore export opportunities beyond North America,"
Fast said the goal over the next five years is to increase the number of SMEs (small- and medium-sized businesses) selling into emerging markets by 10,000. "It's a tall order, but it is one I think can be achieved," he said.
Fast itemized a number of tools Ottawa is making available to help, including the country's network of international trade commissioner offices, enhanced financing options from Export Development Canada and government-led trade missions.
Those tools have been available in various forms for many years and have not necessarily been enough to encourage more SMEs into the broader export market, but the hope is more focused efforts will make the difference.
Fast said only about 40,000 SMEs do any exporting, and the vast majority is almost exclusively to the U.S., even when businesses have the capacity to export beyond that. "We Canadians are a cautious bunch," he said. "We tend to be somewhat risk-averse, and it takes some doing to push us over the line to explore opportunities outside the North American comfort zone."
It's not been from a lack of encouragement to date that SMEs have shied away from the riskier international markets.
Dave Angus, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, has been one voice that has preached export-market development for a long time to his membership. "We lobby government, but we also lobby business," Angus said. "We need it to be more aggressive, not just in Manitoba but across the country."
He said what is good about the negotiation of the trade agreements is it solidifies the message to businesses they need to be more international and they can expect to get support. Angus said the new entrepreneurial culture of startup businesses may be more international in its approach than previous generations, and that may mean more will dip their toes in the international markets.