A report describing Canada’s international business experience gaps and a strategy to address the weaknesses was recently released by the Forum for International Trade Training. The report is worth reading and also does a good job describing the concept of integrative trade.
From my experience international marketing is not a problem for large Canadian firms but it is a challenge for the 98% of Canadian firms that are SMEs. Perhaps the largest impediment is the fact that international marketing is very expensive and Canadian SMEs lack the confidence and resources to put investments into prospecting trips at risk to develop this experience. The second impediment to building international business experience is the lack of ambition of Canada’s SMEs to look for opportunities beyond the US or to even grow at all. At the moment the risk return difference between opportunities closer to home versus far afield remain in favour of regional opportunities. There are simply too few business leaders with sufficient risk tolerance.
For a country with a diverse multicultural population Canada needs to find ways of leveraging this strength to grow international business connections. The strategy if funded will expand the support systems available to Canadian SMEs but the next step will be up to SME leadership to take small steps.