Canada is a powerhouse country when it comes to international trade. Local businesses of all sizes can benefit from our unique global positioning for exporting, especially when it comes to our recent digital landscape developments. Exporting to North American markets is easier than ever thanks to the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and they have favorable exporting laws with many other courtiers over seas.
On average, goods and services exported outside of Canada account for 29% of our total GDP.
This article provides an overview of recent and future trends relating to Canadian businesses that export to foreign markets, as well as important resources to learn additional information.
Canada’s Role as an Exporting Country
According to a report by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) Canada was ranked number 9 in the world in terms of GDP and number 12 in terms of total exports for 2020. The most up to date information on exporting, collated through multifarious means, Statistics Canada, and World’s Top Exports, suggest the following:
- The 2020 annual exports reached a record $637 billion, exceeding the previous record set in 2019 by 7.0%;
- Annual imports reached a record $631 billion in 2021, up 12.2% from 2020;
- In April 2022 the exports of Canada were mainly from Ontario (C$18.7B), Alberta (C$16.9B), Quebec (C$8.68B), British Columbia (C$5.72B), and Manitoba (C$2.41B); and
- In 2021, Canada’s largest exported products were: Crude oil ($82B), Cars ($29.1B), Petroleum gases ($15B), Gold ($15B), and Sawn Wood ($13.4B).
- China ($2.65 Trillion)
- United States ($1.34 Trillion)
- Germany ($1.33 Trillion)
- Japan ($723 Billion)
- South Korea ($531 Billion)
- Integrated Circuits ($669 Billion)
- Cars ($645 Billion)
- Crude Petroleum ($640 Billion)
- Refined Petroleum ($451 Billion)
- Broadcasting Equipment ($429 Billion)
Business Expansion Challenges
Business expansion is intrinsically connected to exporting goods and services to global markets. However, expanding into new and foreign markets presents several challenges for Canadian businesses.
The purpose of this article is to educate readers about current exporting challenges, opportunities, and resources available to Canadian small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Whether a new or seasoned exporter, you may find yourself overwhelmed at the amount of information available from the Canadian and Ontario governments, as well as the variety of international resources available. Building your knowledge of resources, rules and regulations, and online tools is a significant aspect of becoming a successful exporter.
See our Exporting & Trade Show Resources article for over 100 resources that are most valuable to new or existing exporters.
Socio-economic & Trade Statistics
Finding the data you need to determine the viability of your business expansion ideas is the first step towards ensuring your success. Here we have complied the resources that will help you make these decisions. We have organized the information into the following sections:
- Canadian Trade Data
- United States Trade Data
- International Trade Data
Canadian Trade Data
There are several government departments and agencies that provide valuable data for businesses looking at market expansion opportunities. These organizations include:
- Industry Canada;
- Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment;
- Statistics Canada; and
- Canada Trade Commissioner Service.
This Industry Canada site has trade data from a variety of Canadian and U.S. sources updated for the 2022 year. Searches on this site can be done by Product or Industry. The objective of Trade Data Online is to provide customs-based statistics on international trade in goods to help businesses:
- Find new import or export markets;
- Determine competition for products;
- Identify domestic opportunities for import replacement;
- Discover a country’s trade balance; and
- Find out what products countries are importing, exporting, or re-exporting throughout the world.
From this site, you can access statistical overviews of Ontario’s imports and exports to global countries, or to any U.S. state. This includes value of imports and exports, top goods imported and exported, and snapshots of other key trade markers.
The Canadian International Merchandise Trade (CIMT) online database offers detailed trade data using the Harmonized System (HS) classification of goods (based on the 6-digit commodity level). Select a trading partner and specific variables (e.g., country, province, state, year, month, or frequency) or search by commodity or Harmonized System code. You can create customized reports or download data in CSV format.
CANSIM (Canadian Socioeconomic Information Management) is Statistics Canada’s key socioeconomic database. Updated daily, CANSIM provides fast and easy access to a large range of the latest statistics available in Canada.
United States Trade Data
This site provides access to information from more than 100 US Federal government agencies that are obligated to release info collected by publicly funded projects. Search or browse by agency or by US state for statistics and trend information on energy use, economic and population trends, farm production, and more.
The American Census Bureau provides access to data about the United States, Puerto Rico and the Island Areas. The data in American Census Bureau comes from several censuses and surveys. American FactFinder is a searchable database providing results based on: Topics, Race and Ethnic Groups, Industry Codes, EEO Occupation Codes, and is further definable by geography – state, county, city, towns etc.
International Trade Data
There are a considerable number of resources available to access and analyze international trade and socioeconomic data. The following resources are ones that we find useful and recommend to our clients.
globalEDGE is an online portal that was developed by the International Business Center and Michigan State University. The online portal provides access to analysis and resources related to business activities world-wide. One of the important resources from globalEDGE is Global Insights, which offers a database of international business and trade information searchable by industry, country, state, or trade bloc.
This site is an excellent resource for finding statistical information, providing links to international statistical agencies by country. Note that the information is often only available in the language of the county of origin.
If you’re looking for statistics for the European market, the European Commission is the best statistical resource. The site offers interactive tools and maps and various publications with regional statistical data. Information regarding Regional Stats for countries and smaller regions is summarized. Trade data by industry and region is searchable using an exhaustive search tool.
The World Databank is an online web resource that provides simple and quick access to collections of time series data. It has advanced functions, available for registered users, for selecting and displaying data, including enabling customized queries, downloading of data, and creating charts and maps. Users can generate dynamic custom reports based on their selection of countries, indicators, and years. Unregistered users can generate customized reports, view tables, charts, and maps, and download data. This site offers a tutorial to demonstrate how to extract data on 228 countries by examining over 1100 indicators of development data through an extensive base (Tutorial Link).
The UNdata site provides United Nations (UN) collected data from 35 globally connected databases. It is very useful for comparing countries and their respective stats or indicators or trade data, economic topics, or socio-demographic trends. The international sources of data include the following: UN, FAO, WIPO, UNWTO, WHO, OECD, ITU, IMF, and other agencies.
The UN Comtrade database contains more than 3.1 billion trade records starting from 1962 that are free to access online. Some fees are charged for additional services and bulk downloads. Data is compiled in monthly and yearly formats by country and by commodity. Statistics are also broken down into the following categories:
- International Merchandise Trade Statistics
- Statistics of International Trade in Services
- Distributive Trade Statistics
- Compilation of Basic Economic Statistics
The UN Comtrade website also provides links to other international data sources, technical publications, methodology information, and numerous other publications.
Registration is required for this site, but access is free to Canadians for the standard subscription. ITC’s Trade Map provides significant international trade data by product and country through an interactive tool in the form of tables, graphs, and maps – indicators on export performance, international demand, alternative markets, and competitive markets. It also offers a directory of importing and exporting companies.
Included on the site is a tool called ProductMap that collects data from over 70 industries to build out product categories through identification and accessing global market trends. There is a helpful tutorial series included on the site that teaches you how to use the advanced features offered by the site.
This online information hub lists countries by sector that have the best opportunities for growth. When you click on a specific country, further details are available including:
- Market Facts;
- Market Reports;
- Visit Information;
- Trade Events; and
- TCS Locations.
Global Affairs Canada promotes the country’s international trade and helps businesses explore export opportunities. Access the department’s website for details on:
- Exporting from Canada;
- Importing into Canada; and
- Trade negotiations and agreements.
Analyzing the Data
Learning how to determine if your business is export ready and to articulate this information in the form of a marketing and business plan is a recurring challenge for businesses looking to expand their market.
This guide provides a useful overview on new exporting activities including general rules and regulations. In addition, it provides businesses with good starting points for:
- Assessing your company’s export readiness;
- Building an export plan;
- Researching and selecting your target market;
- Creating an export marketing strategy;
- Determine the best methods of delivering your product/service;
- Developing a sound financial plan; and
- Understanding the key legal aspects of international trade.
This guide takes companies on to the next step in exporting by providing useful tools and information about exporting to the United States, including:
- Tools you can use to analyze U.S. markets and their characteristics;
- The effects of CUSMA on Canadian exporters;
- Financing your exports to the U.S.;
- Managing cross-border travel;
- Border security and its effects on Canadian exporters; and
- U.S. Customs procedures and regulations.
From the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT), this site provides in-depth training courses, available online for topics related to international trade.
1–2-day training programs are available for new Ontario exporters exploring the United States or other international markets.
Explore the learning opportunities available from the Canada Trade Commissioner Service to acquire the latest knowledge about exporting opportunities in various countries and industries.
Available online as free marketing tutorials, this site provides detailed and easy to follow information about basic and more complex marketing concepts and methodology. This is a great resource for a business looking to gain some marketing knowledge. The tutorials cover:
- Market Research and Data Collection;
- Advertising and Promotion;
- Marketing Planning and Strategy; and
- How to Write a Marketing Plan.
This unique tool provides significant value for businesses involved in emerging markets. Countries are evaluated on eight dimensions as to their market potential. The most recent data is used to provide an indexing of countries that are part of the emerging markets.
Getting Started with Applying for Canadian Export Grant and Tax Credit Programs
The Canadian federal and provincial governments offer a variety of Canadian government grant, loan, and tax credit programs to help offset a portion of your costs to start exporting products or services to a foreign market. Programs like CanExport SMEs can provide up to $50,000 in exporting grants towards trade show costs, marketing costs, translation costs, market research, and more. To find other exporting funding programs, please visit our Business Expansion and Exporting Funding Directory for a full list of active Government grant, loan, and tax credit programs.
Learn more about how you can create your exporting plan and how funding can help offset a portion of those costs by downloading our free Accessing Grants for Export Activities slide deck.