Canadian exporters pumped despite challenges

Road bumps include difficulty hiring skilled labour and uncertainty over trade agreements with the U.S., according to survey

Mario Toneguzzi on optimistic Canadian exportersCanadian exporters may face challenges these days but in the short-term they remain fairly optimistic.

Export Development Canada’s Mid-Year Trade Confidence Index, a bi-annual survey of 1,000 Canadian exporters, finds that optimism is rising for all firm sizes, sectors and regions of the country.

“Canadian exporters are pumped about higher global growth and are busy filling orders,” said Peter Hall, chief economist at EDC. “This is consistent with the growth we’re seeing in Canadian exports this year. The business is there and exporters are not letting politics trump production – at least, for now.”

Here are some of the survey’s key findings:

  • more Canadian companies indicate their export sales will increase over the next six months (73 per cent, a major jump from 56 per cent in the previous survey);
  • more businesses say sales to the U.S. increased over the past six months (46 per cent, up from 36 per cent).
  • half of the respondents expect to increase hiring but they face challenges in accessing skilled labour;
  • there was a significant increase in the proportion of Canadian exporters who started exporting to new countries (44 per cent up from 31 per cent) and those who plan to do so (64 per cent up from 49 per cent);
  • there was also a significant increase in the proportion of Canadian exporters who have investments outside of Canada (17 per cent up from 11 per cent), or those who plan to do so (22 per cent up from 12 per cent);
  • after a recently-signed trade deal (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP), Canadian exporters are paying more attention to the Asia Pacific;
  • despite overall confidence, there’s still a growing proportion of Canadian exporters who say North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks have had a negative impact on their Canadian operations (28 per cent, up from 23 per cent in the previous survey);
  • the highest NAFTA concerns were reported in the transportation sector, for large firms, and those located in Ontario and Western Canada.

“Current sales may be riding high, but trade uncertainty is having an impact,” said Hall. “Nearly one in five exporters say that NAFTA talks have negatively affected their investment plans. This reluctance to invest could severely restrain Canada’s export capacity in the years ahead.”

Respected business writer Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald in various capacities, including 12 years as a senior business writer.

Canadian exportersThe views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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