Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/6/2019 (389 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As a country of traders, Canada is definitely not in a particularly sweet spot right now.
According to the most recent survey done by Export Development Canada (EDC), trade confidence in Canada is at its lowest point in seven years and one of the lowest in the past two decades.
More than a third of the 1,000 respondents to the EDC survey said they have been negatively affected by protectionist measures by the U.S. and other countries, and almost half believe it is not going to get better in the next year.
Sentiment in Western Canada was the most affected, likely fuelled by issues in the oil sector. In Manitoba, there continues to be a healthy number of companies looking to get into the export market, as evidenced by a waiting list to register for a trade accelerator program run by the World Trade Centre Winnipeg that assists companies in developing an export strategy.
But according to Mariette Mulaire, president and CEO of the WTC, the eagerness is not what it was a year ago.
"There is still interest, but there is not as much enthusiasm," Mulaire said.
More than one-third of the respondents to the EDC survey say protectionism is affecting their export and international investment strategies, and close to the same percentage say the U.S.-China trade dispute is negatively affecting their export and investment activities.
With the Trump administration committed to tinkering with decades-long trade agreements with Canada and others, and the global ramifications of an all-out trade war between the U.S. and China, it is not surprising that the biennial EDC survey had declined in the five key forward-looking issues on exporters’ minds: international business opportunities, world economic conditions, export sales, domestic economic conditions and domestic sales.
Stephen Tapp, deputy chief economist with EDC, said exporters see the domestic economy slowing in the past six months, less than excellent international business opportunities, U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs (that came off after the survey was done) and the U.S.-China trade dispute.
"That (U.S.-China dispute) has really got financial markets concerned." he said. "They are the two largest economies in the world, the two biggest traders in the world and Canada is stuck in the middle between those two in that dispute."
Uncertainty has grown as Canadian exporters saw China cancel canola export permits from Richardson International and Viterra and threaten the same with other commodities like Canadian pork, Trump’s erratic use of tariffs and the ongoing Brexit issue in the U.K.
"There are lots of things in the global economy that have exporters unclear as to what the path forward will be," Tapp said.
Mulaire, who is also a member of the Bank of Canada’s board of directors, said trade tensions are the number one concern regarding the Canadian economy. Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said as much when he was in Winnipeg in early May.
"And it has gotten worse since then," Mulaire said.
But even with all those things swirling, the EDC survey found that 66 per cent said their export and international investment strategy were not affected by the increased protectionism.
"The sky is not falling," Tapp said. "The Canadian export sector continues to do well in light of pretty challenging trade context. We still see a lot of companies having success and doing well."
Kerry Baldwin, of Baldwin Feeds, a raw pet food company out of Starbuck, said the uncertain trade conditions have not really affected him and he has continued exporting to the U.S. as he’s done for the past 30 years. But he has held off buying equipment from the U.S. that was more expensive because of steel and aluminum tariffs.
"So it has not affected us a whole lot yet, but who knows what Trump will do two months from now," Baldwin said.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.