SMEs: The Feds Want YOU (to Start Exporting)

International trade minister Ed Fast says SMEs need to do their homework to prep for export to Europe. And the government will help (a little)

Written by John Lorinc

Having recently announced a preliminary version of the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement, the federal Conservatives are preparing to role out an aggressive trade promotion strategy aimed at persuading Canadian SMEs to take a serious look at exporting into the world’s largest consumer market.

But as Ottawa prepares to unveil its new five-year “global commerce strategy,” government officials said they haven’t set either revenue or job creation goals to benchmark the long-term success of their trade and export policy. (The previous plan expires this year.)

We want SMEs to begin positioning themselves now.

“We’re not going to get into the notion of establishing speculative targets,” international trade minister Ed Fast said in an interview with PROFIT yesterday. “We’re absolutely convinced that freer and more open trade leads to the creation of jobs and economic growth.”

For the past two years, the federal Tories have been racing to sign trade deals as a means of encouraging Canadian companies to diversify into established and emerging markets beyond North America. The government in now in the process of filling out that policy objective with measures designed to push Canadian firms outside their traditional comfort zone.

Fast, an MP from British Columbia, said Ottawa will soon begin planning to boost trade commissioner services in Europe and embark on a high-profile promotional push designed to encourage SMEs to start planning to export to the European Union once the trade deal comes into force in about two years.

The strategy, Fast said, “is focused on engaging SMEs to consider the EU as an export opportunity. We understand that SMEs generally have a lack of awareness of export opportunities and the tool that exist” to support such expansion plans.

He said that Ottawa also plans to lead more trade missions to Europe and other jurisdictions that have signed trade deals with Canada. The missions will have fewer companies €“ 20 to 30 firms €“ and will be coordinated with local trade offices.

Canada, however, isn’t the only country that’s looking to push SMEs to boost their export activity, and several other nations, such as the United Kingdom, have sought to provide incentives and tax credits as encourage.

But Fast says Ottawa doesn’t intend to take that approach. “We’re not going to become engaged in an effort to try to match the tools that other countries might be enabling their SMEs with.”

Instead, he urged Canadian SMEs to spend the next two years doing their homework on Europe so they can hit the ground running when the deal comes into effect. “We want our SMEs to begin positioning themselves now.”

Read: 6 Steps to Prep for Export to the EU

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