A new trade strategy for a post-recession era

OTTAWA, Feb. 11 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's trade, which was growing slowly heading into the recession, collapsed in 2009 - and growth is not guaranteed to bounce back once global economies rebound and demand resumes, according to a Conference Board of Canada report released today.

"We can't risk complacency and assume that 'doing well enough' is 'good enough'. Successful trade players know that standing still is a recipe for slipping backward. We must take active steps to strengthen Canada's competitive position in the global marketplace," said Louis Thériault, Director, International Trade and Investment Centre.

Canada's trade profile going into the recession was discouraging. In 2009, the value of Canadian exports plunged by 14.8 per cent and imports are estimated to have declined by 15.6 per cent. Moreover, real export growth had been flat since 2000, and Canada-U.S. trade and economic integration had peaked.

Canada needs a new trade strategy for a post-recession era. A three-pronged strategy should include:

    -   More internationally competitive Canadian firms - Organizations must
        determine where international trade and investment fit in their
        corporate strategies and how they can improve their core
        competitiveness. In particular, they should think about how
        international trade is changing as a result of value chains, emerging
        economies, and shifting global trade patterns.
    -   Stronger and more forward-looking international trade policies and
        strategies - Canada has some clear trade strengths. But it is also up
        against some hard-nosed and well-armed competitors. Canada's trade
        policy needs to recognize changing trends in international trade,
        such value chains, integrative trade, and foreign direct investment;
        rethink its position in relation to the U.S. market by focusing on
        realigning regulations with its southern neighbor; and developing a
        comprehensive strategy to succeed in emerging economies. In addition,
        Canada needs to strengthen its profile in the evolving World Trade
    -   A more supportive national operating environment - Trade strategies
        are not likely to be successful without improvements in the
        underlying competitiveness of Canada's economy. Canada needs to
        remove obstacles that discourage foreign investors, such as
        interprovincial barriers and excessive regulatory requirements, and
        deal with poor productivity growth. In addition to removing barriers,
        more emphasis needs to be placed on the building blocks for competing
        effectively in the global economy. This calls for investment in
        Canada's aging urban and transportation infrastructure, retooling
        immigration policies to attract more entrepreneurial talent and
        labour market needs, and developing a culture of innovation.

The report, Re-Energizing Canada's International Trade: Strategies for Post-Recession Success, forms part of the CanCompete project. This three-year Conference Board program of research and dialogue is designed to help leading decision makers advance Canada on a path of national competitiveness.

SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: For further information: Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, Tel.: (613) 526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca

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