For the first time in its corporate history, Export Development Canada (EDC) has officially opened a financing branch outside of Canada, in Singapore. The new branch will serve the entire Asia-Pacific region, and will help create more opportunities for trade between Canadian and Asian companies. Bill Brown, Regional Vice-President, Asia, tells Exportwise about what it’s like to lead this milestone initiative for EDC.

Talk us through your role as Regional Vice President of Asia at EDC.

The role is very unique at EDC. Not only do I have responsibilities for market coverage, origination, and relationship management through a team of over 20 people spread across Canada, China, India, Southeast Asia, and soon Australia. I am also involved with the underwriting and financing part of the business at the Singapore Branch. The breadth of these responsibilities, as well as my team members coming from a wide variety of cultures, is what makes coming to work every day so fun and interesting.

In this role, there is no such thing as a typical day. It ranges from working with our team in India to help facilitate a major financing with one of India’s key corporate entities in order to drive more Canadian exporters into their massive supply chains, to presenting EDC and Canada’s capabilities at a business conference in China.

Another exciting aspect of my position is the mandate: Asia is the priority region for the Government of Canada and EDC. As in-market representatives, we work closely with the Trade Commissioner Service, not only to identify opportunities to support Canadian exporters with insurance and financing, but also to act as a catalyst to increase Canada’s trade within Asia and Oceania. Ultimately, we strive to diversify Canada’s trade patterns and grow opportunities for Canadian exporters beyond the traditional trade markets.

How important is Asia to EDC?

Asia is comprised of some of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world. These countries and Canada have quite a bit in common: they are all dependent on trade and have an abundance of natural resources spread out over a large geographical area. These similarities present as an opportunity to strengthen ties between the regions, for the benefit of both.

As a result, the Government of Canada and EDC have really turned their focus on Asia and made it a priority to promote trade and investment across all of the key countries. Asia is so important that, for the first time in its history, EDC opened its first global branch office outside of Canada, in Singapore.

Why are you opening a standalone branch office in Singapore now? And what is its significance/relevance to the region?

Asia is a priority, and EDC’s new standalone branch is expected to be an important contributor to enhancing bilateral trade and investment between Asia and Canada.

The new office allows us to conduct administrative, business development, and underwriting operations in Singapore itself. By bringing our financing operations closer to Asian buyers, we hope to better understand their financing needs. This proximity will ultimately help identify more opportunities for business between Canada and Asia as a whole.

Furthermore, Singapore is a market with broad Canadian interests and is the financial and transportation hub in Asia. It serves as a perfect gateway for Canadian companies looking to start doing business in Asia. Singapore is considered one of the best investment destinations for foreign firms because it offers a stable and secure political environment and a highly educated and skilled workforce.

It is also centrally located between all of our representations in the region: Mumbai, New Delhi, Shanghai, Beijing, and Jakarta, plus EDC’s newest representative office scheduled to open later in 2017.

How does EDC’s new branch office help Canadian companies who want to do business in Singapore and the region? Why should they choose to work with EDC?

EDC has a unique value proposition. As a global scale financier, we provide a combination of commercial and consensus export credit financing to Asian corporations in support of transactions involving Canadian supply or services. At the same time, we can provide support through our entire range of financial solutions to Canadian companies interested in joining those global supply chains.

We can also serve as a supply-chain talent scout for our partners. We regularly helps corporations reduce costs, increase efficiency, and innovate by introducing them to Canadian companies with the exact capabilities they need or want.

The short answer is: we make trade easier for Canadian and foreign companies alike.

How would you define Canada’s role as a global exporter? What more can be done to raise Canada’s export trade and international business efforts?

With a large proportion of Canada’s GDP linked to trade, international business and investment are critical to the continued growth of the Canadian economy. Fortunately, Canada has strong connections throughout the world: the U.S. is by far Canada’s largest trade partner, the country’s relationship with Europe is expanding with the recent ratification of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), and Canada has numerous other free trade agreements throughout Latin America and Asia. In fact, Canada has recently begun early discussions for a free trade agreement with China.

There is more work to do to keep increasing Canada’s presence on the world stage. Canada’s business community is comprised mostly of small-to medium-sized businesses – about 97 per cent. It can be challenging for these smaller Canadian companies to find the right support and partners abroad. We’ve undertaken a lot of research to better understand the needs of smaller companies at all stages of their export journey, from their first international sale to opening a new facility in a foreign market. Getting more small companies involved in trade will help the economies of all nations. It’s a win-win situation.

Which industries/sectors would benefit most from EDC’s Singapore branch office opening?

Key sectors of interest to EDC in ASEAN, India, and China include infrastructure (including power and cleantech), oil and gas, information and communications technology, aerospace, rail, and automotive. Canadian companies already have the expertise to provide the goods and services across these sectors that are critical to Asia’s needs right now.

For a trading country like Canada, what is your position on what Canadian companies should do to succeed in the global marketplace?

Companies who export abroad do better. Our research indicates that selling internationally increases profitability, productivity, and innovation. There are so many different considerations, but here are my top tips to break into new markets and attract new customers:

  • Understand the local market. A “one size fits all” approach does not work in international trade, as each market has its own rules, regulations and ways of doing business. It is important to tailor your approach to fit the local culture.
  • Establish connections and partners in the foreign market. EDC or Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service are good resources for companies to help create connections and break into global supply chains.
  • Foreign buyers are often not interested in one-off contracts, so investing in long-term relationships is crucial. If a particular market is right for your company, consider investing in an on-the-ground presence to help build relationships with local companies. This could be as simple as a sales office, but being close to your supply chain buyers and being part of the business community is very important in many Asian markets.

What’s next for EDC now that you’ve opened a Singapore branch?

The first order of business is to become embedded within the financial and business community in Singapore, and then to continue to build Canada’s presence across all of Asia. We’re going to work very hard to earn the trust and business of our Asian customers, ultimately to create more opportunities for Canadian companies looking to expand in the region.

We plan on developing some new products specifically designed for our Asian customers. For example, the India Team recently completed the first Masala ECB loan in conjunction with Scotiabank. In addition, we are working on opening a permanent rupee (INR) bank account and developing a Renminbi (RMB) currency swap solution for transactions in India and China.

We also plan to further extend our presence within the region in the near future, with a couple of new locations being considered after our new Sydney, Australia representation is opened later in 2017.