Export diversification is an integral part of the government’s strategy for supporting strong economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians. It’s a strategy aimed at securing more opportunities for Canadian exporters and investors to compete and succeed in fast-growing global markets and sectors, and at mobilizing more Canadian companies – including SMEs and underrepresented groups – to export.
Diversification has been a long-standing objective of EDC as well. Through our 20 international representations, we nurture relationships with buyers in key geographic markets and gather valuable market intelligence on behalf of Canadian exporters. We work closely with the TCS in each market, deploying a “Team Canada” approach to create trade and investment opportunities.
Helping Canadian companies realize the benefits of Canada’s free trade agreements (FTAs) is another component of our strategy. In 2019, EDC published an e-book, Profiting from Canada’s Free Trade Agreements. We also hosted multiple webinars on Canada’s FTAs, with nearly 3,000 registrants, and joined the TCS on their cross-Canada CPTPP promotion tour.
As part of the Government of Canada’s response plan to challenges facing Canadian canola producers, EDC made an additional $150 million in commercial insurance available in 2019 to help canola producers pursue international market diversification opportunities.
Gender inequality remains an issue in the entrepreneurial world. In Canada, women-owned companies account for 16 per cent of all SMEs, and only 11 per cent of these companies export. In 2018, the Government of Canada launched its women entrepreneurship strategy to encourage the full and equal participation of women in the economy. EDC’s contribution to this strategy is a $250 million initiative, which we’re leveraging over three years to help companies owned and led by women grow and scale their business.
This commitment marked the start of a structured approach to increasing EDC’s support for Canadian women-owned and women-led businesses. We developed a strategic roadmap to focus our efforts, which was based on research into the specific needs and challenges that women entrepreneurs face along their exporter journey. The results so far suggest that we’re on the right track – with $650 million of business facilitated through our financial solutions in 2019.
Increasing EDC’s availability among women-owned and women-led businesses was a 2019 priority, which was advanced through several proactive and direct initiatives. This included developing a network of key stakeholders across the ecosystem to help us connect with businesswomen, launching the Women in Trade website, and participating in more than 30 events targeting women entrepreneurs, including all 15 of BDC’s bootcamps for women.
Research has always been central to our strategy. To address research findings indicating that equity capital providers were not meaningfully investing in businesses owned or led by women, we announced a new $50 million Women in Trade Investments Program, which provides equity capital specifically for women entrepreneurs. We also initiated a research project with BDC and the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub to gain further insights into the specific challenges and opportunities for women in trade.
The economic impact of LGBTQ2+ owned businesses in Canada is growing, with an estimated 140,000 companies in existence. In 2019, EDC became an official corporate partner of the Canadian LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, the sole body in Canada that can certify a company as an LGBTQ2+ enterprise. As part of this partnership, we participated in its annual business summit, presenting the first Exporter of the Year Award, and joining a panel discussion on growing business outside of Canada.
EDC was also part of a trade delegation to the U.S., supporting LGBTQ2+ owned businesses that were meeting with U.S. banks and companies to gain access to their supplier diversity programs. We’re now working closely with several of these companies.
EDC created a position that is dedicated solely to supporting indigenous exporters.
Towards a goal of doing more to support indigenous-led companies, we’ve appointed a corporate lead for indigenous exporters, who’s charged with building out EDC’s long-term strategy.
Recognizing that there’s much to learn and much to do, we travelled across the country in 2019, engaging with indigenous organizations, businesses and financial institutions to understand the specific needs and challenges of indigenous businesses looking to export, and to raise awareness of EDC. We also established an internal advisory committee to provide guidance and align efforts across our organization.