Despite tumultuous times, survey found record push for diversification, helping secure more opportunities for Canadian investors and exporters

Canadian trade confidence tumbled by 19% to an all-time low, according to the biannual Trade Confidence Index published today from Export Development Canada (EDC).

The economic shock from the lockdowns imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has touched virtually every industry, in every region of the country. 

As a result, according to the survey, the headline index tumbled to 56.0 – five points lower than during the Great Recession – from 69.3 at the end of 2019.

“It’s not surprising that COVID-19 is the culprit, but looking beyond the headline numbers, our survey’s details clearly show just how significant the pandemic and related containment measures have been for Canadian exporters,” said EDC Deputy Chief Economist Stephen Tapp. 

Almost three-quarters of respondents said the pandemic has had a negative impact on their sales, with half of those reporting a “high negative” impact. Although some businesses (14%) said they’ve seen stronger sales on account of COVID-19, most respondents (64%) said they expect this shock, and the negative sales impacts it brings with it, to carry into 2021.

Alongside COVID-19, worries of increased protectionism, trade tensions and economic concerns also contributed to the declining confidence of the survey respondents. 

More than two-thirds (69%) of respondents said they expect protectionism to increase in the year ahead – that’s almost double the number in the previous survey. 

Despite the lack of confidence and the significant concerns exporters are facing, the EDC survey also found a record push for diversification. 

“In this tumultuous time, it’s encouraging to see Canadian exporters increasingly diversifying their global footprints by exporting to new markets and investing outside of Canada,” Tapp said. 

The share of respondents with investments outside of Canada increased to 20%, its highest level on record. Similarly, the share of respondents exporting to new markets – or planning to – also increased to a historical high, with the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France representing the top destination markets.

Though not connected to the survey, EDC has noticed another positive trend take hold as the pandemic wears on. Some customers have successfully shifted their operations, seizing the opportunity to innovate and meet new consumer demands related to COVID-19.

EDC, meanwhile, has adjusted its focus and flexibility to reflect the current needs of Canadian businesses. We are committed to supporting Canadian businesses through this pandemic with expert knowledge and financial services. 

About EDC’s Trade Confidence Index

This survey includes responses from 823 Canadian exporters. The Trade Confidence Index is conducted twice a year, providing insights otherwise unavailable through traditional trade statistics. The results are a pulse check of Canadian exporters’ level of confidence and their expectations of international trade opportunities. Respondents are a broadly representative mix of small, medium and large-sized companies across the country. The online survey was conducted from May 6 to May 26, 2020.

About EDC

Export Development Canada (EDC) is a financial Crown corporation dedicated to helping Canadian businesses make an impact at home and abroad. EDC has the financial products and knowledge Canadian companies need to confidently enter new markets, reduce financial risk and grow their business as they go from local to global. Together, EDC and Canadian companies are building a more prosperous, stronger and sustainable economy for all Canadians.

For more information and to learn how we can help your company, call us at 1-800-229-0575 or visit