With exports accounting for almost 40 per cent of economic activity and linked to a quarter of all Canadian jobs, international trade is a critical foundation of Canada's economy. As a result, Trade and Investment (TI) has become one of WD's top priorities.
WD's Trade and Investment Framework guides the department's activities in this area, as part of a coordinated national trade agenda working to improve international competitiveness and strengthen trade and economic corridors of importance to the West. As well, WD's TI activities complement the priorities of the Government of Canada's Global Commerce Strategy and Science and Technology Strategy.
Export markets are important to business growth and success, and WD works to increase export opportunities in key North American, Asian and Latin American markets. The department also supports the international market penetration of western Canadian technologies, services and value-added products. Through activities that market western Canadian exports and promote the region as a prime location for investment, WD focuses international attention on western capabilities, expertise and potential. WD also plays an important role in supporting skill development and export readiness services for small- and medium-enterprises to boost their presence in international markets.
In 2008 for example, WD, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the western provinces, hosted a Technology Capabilities Study Tour to explore opportunities for increasing trade and investment in new and emerging sectors of the western Canadian economy.
Trade commissioners and science and technology officers from Canadian Posts in North Asia came to Western Canada, touring about two dozen cutting-edge facilities to learn more about the West's growing capabilities in the Information and Communication Technology, Environment and Natural Resources Technologies, Life Sciences and Biotechnology, and Aerospace and Defence sectors.
In 2004, a similar tour was held for Canadian consular staff posted in the U.S. Since then, WD has continued to pursue opportunities that emerged from that tour. To date, WD has undertaken about 75 trade and investment projects, including a supplier development mission to help western Canadian companies sell their products to the U.S. Department of Defense and a trade mission to California that brought together venture capitalists, business leaders and Canadian expatriates to expand investment in western Canadian technologies.
The department also works to enhance trade routes between North America, Asia-Pacific and Western Canada. For example, the Port Alberta initiative, a project aimed at establishing the Edmonton region as a major inland port.
Encouraging International Trade
Trade advisory services are provided by WD’s Canada Business service centres in all four western provinces and in 2007/08 WD funding helped to establish Small Business BC’s TradeStart program. Since its inception in September 2007, TradeStart has assisted 25 BC small businesses become export ready and 200 companies have participated in export preparedness initiatives.