Canadian exporters are being kept busy by strong world growth, new trade agreements – and unfortunately by the uncertainty of protectionism. I’m a week into my Let’s Talk Exports cross-Canada forecast tour, sharing thoughts on the global economy, and finding out how exporters are doing. Here’s a very quick hit of the key regional messages I am giving as I cross the country.

Newfoundland tops the growth charts

Newfoundland and Labrador will be the lone province to experience double-digit export growth in 2018. While commodity prices will play a role, the biggest growth contributor comes from a full year of production from the Hebron offshore oil platform and the ramp up of Vale’s Long Harbour nickel processing plant. The multi-year nature of these ramp-ups will continue to boost the province’s exports into 2019. We look for 11 per cent export growth this year, and 7 per cent in 2019.

Quebec claims second spot this year. While exports are highly diversified by industry, the significant increase in production of C Series aircraft by Bombardier, the expansion of key mining projects and expansion of electricity export capacity will help propel export growth of 8% in 2018. 

In Alberta, the echo of investments made before the collapse in global oil prices will see exports expand in 2018 as the Fort Hills oil sands project and the Sturgeon Refinery start production. Additional export capacity growth from the energy sector and the startup of a $360-million Cavendish Farms potato processing plant in Lethbridge will support growth in 2019. 

Higher global growth will ensure bustling activity at British Columbia ports this year and next. In addition, a stable currency and forestry prices are offsetting the negative impacts of U.S. countervailing duties on softwood lumber, supporting near-term growth. Mining exports will benefit from rising production at the Highland Valley and Mount Milligan copper mines.

Nova Scotia is well-positioned to benefit from trade diversification. Higher global growth together with the CETA agreement have increased opportunities for the Port of Halifax. Seafood is selling well in Asian markets, Finally, expanded mining production, notably the opening of the Touquoy gold mine, will help exports hit 6 per cent growth this year.

In 2018 Prince Edward Island will see 4 per cent growth, as the trade deal with the EU is expected to support diversification for agricultural and aquaculture products. Export gains will accelerate to 5 per cent in 2019, spurred by gains in the food and aerospace industries.

New Brunswick is highly exposed to the flourishing US market; however, growth will be constrained as higher wood product prices are largely offset by impacts from US softwood lumber and groundwood pulp duties. The province hopes to capitalize on the CETA agreement and robust Asian demand.

Peak US auto sales soften Ontario export growth

A booming North American auto sector is keeping Ontario exports at a high level, although growth will be modest, as the US market has peaked. Machinery and equipment exports should accelerate on higher US demand. However, investment in new export capacity will be constrained by NAFTA uncertainty.

Saskatchewan, Canada’s most internationally diversified province, will see limited growth as weak commodity prices and transportation bottlenecks crimp overall performance.

Manitoba will also be constrained by weaker commodity prices while lower mining sector output will further dampen exports. This comes in spite of brighter prospects for exports of manufactured goods, boosted by higher US and global growth.

The bottom line?

Key competing forces are tugging at the forecast from both sides this year and next. On balance, rising global growth, modest increases in commodity prices, shifting winds of protectionism from the United States and expansion of Canadian free trade agreements are together expected to produce more subdued export growth among the provinces for 2018 and 2019.