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Canada: A varied and robust trade relationship

The U.S. and Canada enjoy the world’s largest and most comprehensive trading relationship. The two countries trade more than $2 billion in goods and services daily. Canada is a highly receptive, open and transparent market for U.S. products and services, with Canadians spending more than 60 percent of their disposable income on U.S.-made goods and services. In 2017, Wisconsin exports to Canada exceeded the equaled total Wisconsin exports to Mexico, China, Saudi Arabia and Japan combined.

Due to its geographic proximity and cultural similarity to the U.S., as well as a common language and a high level of existing cross-border trade, Canada is a strong opportunity market for Wisconsin companies across all sectors. Canada is the largest export market for U.S.-produced goods ($282 billion in 2017) and for goods produced in Wisconsin ($6.9 billion in 2017).

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been in place for 25 years, and although uncertainty over its possible renegotiation is certainly understandable, the opportunity to modernize and tweak aspects of the agreement in order to better reflect the realities of today’s integrated global economy is promising. Even in the extreme case that the U.S. withdraws from NAFTA, this would not end trade between the U.S. and Canada. NAFTA has created a truly hemispheric supply chain that has become an essential fact of life for small businesses and major manufacturers alike.

Business connections

In March 2019, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will be leading a global trade venture to Canada. Wisconsin companies, whether new to exporting or looking to expand their exports into Canada, are invited to participate in this program. The cities included in the program, Toronto and Montreal, were chosen because of their markets’ strategic importance for Wisconsin companies. Exporting is a must for any company seeking to grow; Wisconsin companies across all sectors are encouraged to consider participating in this global trade venture.

In each city, participants will be scheduled for customized one-on-one meetings with prospective partners in the market. These partners are chosen specifically for each participating company based on the company’s business needs and objectives. Each participant in the global trade venture will also receive market intelligence specific to his or her company, detailing considerations to keep in mind when introducing the company’s product or service into the Canadian market. WEDC has eyes and ears on the ground in Canada, in the form of an authorized trade representative based in Toronto—thus making it easier for Wisconsin companies to find local partners they can trust, and taking some of the guesswork out of launching in a new market. Traveling as part of a trade venture also provides the opportunity for peer-to-peer networking and sharing of experiences and business connections among participants.

Canada outlook

The Canadian economy is a highly developed, mixed economy. Canada is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, with a high standard of living and excellent quality of life. Canada is the 17th largest global economy (based on purchasing power parity), and in 2017 logged a solid GDP growth rate of 3 percent.

As a large, advanced economy with well-developed infrastructure, Canada is an ideal first market for new-to-export companies as well as those seeking to further expand their business and distribution networks in country. Canada is a market that seeks innovative, advanced technology product and service solutions—so whether a company is a first-time or seasoned exporter, Canada should be a key component of its export growth strategy. In Canada, Wisconsin companies will find a friendly market with many potential buyers for their products and services, especially if they offer innovations that solve problems for companies in their respective sectors.

The greater Toronto area, which is a part of the highly integrated Great Lakes distribution and production network, is a rich and diversified economy. Ontario is the largest provincial economy in Canada (accounting for about 39 percent of total GDP), and its economy has continued to grow in an uncertain economic environment. Sectors of particular strength include aerospace (a $5.3 billion industry); automotive (Ontario is a leading jurisdiction for high-quality auto production); food and beverage manufacturing (Ontario has 52,000 farms producing more than 200 agricultural commodities); life sciences and medical technology (Toronto is Canada’s largest center of life science activity); and water technology (Ontario is a global leader of research and development).

The Quebec provincial economy is highly diversified and innovative, with abundant natural resources and energy, as well as strong agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors. Its economy is the second-largest in Canada, accounting for over 19 percent of national GDP, and is growing on pace with the national average. Though it is not the province’s capital, Montreal has developed into its economic center. Key industries include aerospace (Montreal is considered to be one of the world’s top three aerospace capitals, food and agriculture (with some 2,200 food processing companies located here), advanced transportation (with companies such as Bombardier, BRP, Paccar and Volvo as well as a number of innovative research centers), information and communications technology (software development, microelectronics, multimedia, optics-photonics, consulting services, telecommunications and cloud services), life sciences (the pool of skilled research personnel here ranks among the world’s best), and mining (only 1 percent of the province’s land area is currently mined, but 5 percent is covered by mining rights).

Funded in part through a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration