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Trade: "Seize global opportunities"

Trade"Seize global opportunities"

Trade is vital for the western Canadian economy. In 2017, the West exported over $193 billion in goods and over $30 billion in services to other countries. Western provinces also exported $154 billion worth of goods and services to each other and the rest of Canada.

Western Canada's Top Ten Export Destinations

The West is well-positioned to take advantage of growing global opportunities. British Columbia is Canada's gateway to Asia's rapidly expanding markets. Our exporters benefit from the strongest set of free trade agreements in the G7, which cover 62 per cent of the world economy.

The region has a large trade surplus of goods, with our natural resource exports leading the way. Over 70 per cent of all western Canadian goods are bound for the US. Easy access to the world's largest economy helps our exporters, but in many cases holds them back from tackling other lucrative markets. Asia is one of the fastest growing regional economies, but accounts for only 19 per cent of western Canada's exports.

While there are great opportunities to grow our exports and expand into new markets, there are also significant challenges. The world is dealing with trade uncertainty and western Canada is not immune. Trade barriers are making it more complex and expensive to ship our products to both established and emerging markets. Tariffs and product regulations are impacting our agricultural, forestry, and manufacturing exports. Interprovincial trade, even within the West, can also be challenging for our companies.

Western Canada also needs to broaden the range of products and services that we export, with over 45 per cent currently linked to oil and gas. Western Canadian oil also trades at a significant discount, with our dependence on the US market and transportation bottlenecks costing our economy an estimated $80 million every day.

The federal and provincial governments are working on solutions for these trade issues. Western Canadians must also embrace these challenges and pursue growing global demand for our goods and services, such as energy, food, and materials. These sectors underpin our quality of life with high-paying jobs and growth opportunities for many western communities. However, we need to resolve transportation bottlenecks that are limiting export access and increasing costs. Our businesses need export-readiness and other targeted services to understand and tackle new markets.

Tapping into new Markets


Grow West Spotlight

Tapping into new markets

The Government's National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF) funds infrastructure projects that reduce export bottlenecks and help Canadian businesses take advantage of new overseas markets. The NTCF provided $9.2 million to Ashcroft Terminal Ltd. in British Columbia to build a new rail link, extra rail track and an internal road network.

These new infrastructure projects will provide producers and shippers improved efficiency in the shipment of goods, support the movement and storage of rail cars to enhance fluidity through Canada's Pacific Gateway Trade Corridor, and ensure that rail and truck operations do not interfere with each other, thereby increasing safety.

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These new infrastructure projects will provide producers and shippers improved efficiency in the shipment of goods, support the movement and storage of rail cars to enhance fluidity through Canada's Pacific Gateway Trade Corridor, and ensure that rail and truck operations do not interfere with each other, thereby increasing safety.

Grow West spotlight

Improve export access

Western Canadian businesses need better ways to move their products and services to global markets. We need to upgrade and expand our transportation infrastructure, including major ports, rail systems, and pipelines. Current bottlenecks help explain why Canada has one of the slowest growing export sectors among OECD and G7 countries.

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To help address these challenges, the Government of Canada is accelerating funding for the $2.4 billion National Trade Corridors Fund. This will support many western transportation projects, including a number of improvements at the Port of Vancouver, as well as road and rail upgrades on the prairies.

The federal government's $4.5 billion purchase of, and renewed public consultations for, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project demonstrates commitment to western Canada's energy sector.

Western Canada's Top Exports

Oil & Gas
$96 Billion
Crops, Livestock, and Food
$35 Billion
Minerals and Metals
$26 Billion
Water & Paper
$20 Billion
$13 Billion

Source:Trade Data Online, merchandise exports, 2018. Groupings include related manufacturing



Western Canadians must continue to strengthen our transportation and trade infrastructure in order to



Get western energy to new markets. The West needs more pipelines and overseas routes to ship our oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and other energy products to Asia and the Gulf Coast. Innovative technology, updated regulations, and community engagement will help create safe and cost-efficient transportation options.


Reduce bottlenecks. Our agri-food, forestry, mining, and manufacturing sectors are also facing challenges shipping their goods. Governments and industry should invest in ports, rail, road, and air infrastructure, as well as improving logistics to move more western products to market.


Modernize trade infrastructure and plan for the future. Our governments, communities, industry, and trade partners need to work together to set trade and transportation priorities for the west. Together, we should tackle today’s infrastructure challenges, while also setting the stage for autonomous vehicles, rising digital trade, and changing world markets.

Grow markets

Improving western Canada’s trade infrastructure is only part of the solution. Western companies and producers can benefit from knowledge and relationships that help them start and grow their exports. Trade programs are being tailored to regional needs. At the same time, western Canadian businesses should explore more global opportunities.

Companies that export grow faster and are more profitable. However, only 12 percent of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are exporters, and 87 percent of these export only to the US. We need to have truly global ambitions. This includes both tackling new markets and diversifying types of exports.

Since launching in 2016, CanExport has helped over 1,000 firms undertake more than 1,300 export development projects to more than 90 markets, resulting in over $375 million in new exports. As part of the Government of Canada’s new Export Diversification Strategy, the CanExport program will triple in size to help more firms tap into global demand for western products and services. There will also be more trade commissioners in western Canada, to help connect companies with specialized initiatives such as the Business Women in International Trade program, which led three trade missions involving over 125 women-owned firms and business support organizations in 2018.

More western Canadian companies need to start exporting and growing their global market share. We need to collaborate on solutions to:


Strengthen Innovation Ecosystems

Leverage Trade Agreements

Our businesses need to take full advantage of Canada's rising number of free trade pacts. They need stronger resources and industry initiatives to help them navigate and thrive in new markets. Canada's negotiation of new trade agreements should also promote western Canadian interests.

Support High-Growth Western Firms

Enhance Export Services

More western firms need to participate in programs that help them plan, launch, and grow their exports. Governments should tailor their trade services for western Canadians, including specialized programs that increase exports by underrepresented groups, such as women, youth, and immigrant-owned businesses.

Support High-Growth Western Firms

Improve our Knowledge of Global Markets

Western Canadian businesses need timely and accurate information to find opportunities and develop their exports. Governments need to strengthen their analysis of growing global demand for western products. Working with industry, they can also build on-the-ground contacts, suppliers, and intelligence to connect our firms to global buyers.

Build Inclusive Technology Sectors

Strengthen regional export collaboration and marketing

Governments and companies should better align their export efforts. More partnerships and better marketing to increase trade. Companies and sectors need to work together to set export targets and plan shared actions. We also need to reduce interprovincial barriers.

Next Steps

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