Tariffs. Trade wars. Heated negotiations and inflamed rhetoric.

Glancing at the headlines these days, Canadian companies could be forgiven if they’re concerned over the trading relationship between Canada and the U.S. Despite the healthy exchange of goods and services that takes place every day between both countries, some experts say we’re at a low point in Canada-U.S. trade relations.

Indeed, according to the Conference Board of Canada, the U.S. share of Canada’s trade has dropped from 83 per cent in the early 2000s to around 73 per cent today.

Which is why it’s not surprising that one of Global Affairs Canada’s top three stated priorities for 2018-19 is the further diversification of Canada’s international trade.

While we have members and business relationships with many U.S.-based companies and several U.S.-based associations, the unfortunate reality is that no company or organization can control a trade war or tariffs. Hence, diversification may make sense.

But for Canadian companies in the FHE space looking to diversify beyond North America, establishing beachheads in new markets can be daunting. Where do you start? Whom do you contact? And is there anyone to help you through the process, either with funding, guidance, or both?

You’ve got options

Thankfully, there are several options – both from the federal and provincial government, recent Canadian trade deals, and through intelliFLEX itself – for Canadian companies looking to expand to new markets. Here are some examples for federal and provincial programs in Ontario, with similar provincial programs available in other provinces:

  • CanExport (federal): As far as government programs go, this is one of the newest and largest. Launched in 2016, CanExport is a federal program mandated to provide up to $50M in direct financial support over five years to Canadian SMEs developing new export opportunities, with an emphasis on high-growth priority markets and sectors. Review the applicant guide to see if you qualify.
  • Export Market Access (Ontario): EMA is an Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Government of Ontario-driven program for Ontario businesses looking to expand into new international markets. If your company has annual sales of $500k or more, you could qualify for a grant covering up to 50 per cent of your access and expansion costs. You can find more details, including how to apply, here. Atlantic Canada also has its own EMA program.
  • Ontario Exporters Fund (Ontario): OEF assists Ontario-based SMEs become more export ready, along with helping companies gain or increase access to international export markets. It’s administered by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce with funding from the Ontario government. The fund helps SMEs better understand their export capacity, along with improving access to foreign markets and developing export market access strategies. You can find more details here.

Other Canadian government programs that can assist in diversifying or expanding your export markets include the Export Guarantee Program (federal), the Export Support Fund (Alberta), the Export Readiness Micro-Voucher Program (Alberta), Export Development Canada’s financing and Export Guarantee programs (federal), the Export Growth Program (Nova Scotia), and the Xpansion Loan program from BDC (federal).

FTA’s to the rescue

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which came into force in late 2017, can also be leveraged by Canadian companies exploring new markets across the Atlantic. The agreement ensures that 98 per cent of EU tariff lines are duty-free for Canadian goods.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will offer similar opportunities for Canadian companies in the Asia-Pacific region. And with the U.S. not currently signed on to the deal, Canadian firms should have better market access than their U.S. counterparts. The agreement has not yet come into force.

Canada is also currently discussing a bilateral trade agreement with China.

Advantages for intelliFLEX members

intelliFLEX also offers several opportunities for members looking to expand trade horizons:

  • A strategic partnership with AFELIM in France can help intelliFLEX members build commercial partner relationships in the EU, using France as a beachhead
  • intelliFLEX has relationships with several other industry associations and groups in the EU, including Greece’s Hope-A and OE-A in the United Kingdom
  • Beyond meeting the international members of intelliFLEX at its industry events, you could also consider attending major industry events with OE-A and UK-based IDTechEx, along with smaller national workshops and conferences in the UK, Greece, and France
  • We can help you build connections with the South Korean printed electronics association, KoPEA, and its Japanese counterpart, Japera
  • intelliFLEX is visiting the Taiwan Textile Research Institute and TIFE Conference to develop smart textile business links, with an MOU currently in development

This is along with intelliFLEX’s already well-developed activities in the U.S., including its MOU with SEMI-FlexTech – an industry association that organizes collaboration opportunities, along with directing R&D funding – and the Canada Pavilion at IDTechEx’s PE Show in Santa Clara.

These are just a few options Canadian firms can leverage when looking to expand to new markets. If you’d like more information about establishing or growing your international export markets, please contact intelliFLEX CEO Peter Kallai at pkallai@intelliflex.org.