Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s persistent coaxing of Canadian business to diversify international trade beyond the United States may be gaining traction as 71 per cent of large, medium and small businesses in Canada project China or India to represent the largest increase in trade this year. Only eight per cent of businesses project the U.S. to be the fastest growing source of exports and imports in 2012.
According to a quarterly survey of Canadian business commissioned by UPS Canada and conducted by Leger Marketing, the business community’s positive outlook on growth is contingent on the continued stability of the Canadian economy. This optimism is also fuelling a boost in innovation, as nearly three quarters of respondents (71 per cent) plan to launch a new product or upgrade an existing one in 2012. Canadian business is particularly bullish about global expansion with 62 per cent of medium-to-large businesses identifying exporting as a competitive necessity.
According to the survey, the strength of the Canadian economy is the single biggest influence on business goals and direction at 33 per cent. The next three influences are rising oil prices at 13 per cent and the sluggish global economy and anaemic U.S. market at 12 per cent respectively. Given the renewed appetite for global trade with an emphasis on Asia, the strength of the Loonie influences the goals and decisions of only nine per cent of respondents.
Looking more closely at the export data, a majority of businesses foresee China (56 per cent) as the country that is the most likely to see increased trade with Canadian business. Its growing consumer base, coupled with the Federal Government’s renewed diplomatic efforts at the beginning of the year, should help the nearly one-third of businesses (32 per cent) who are interested in expanding to China turn their plans into tangible results. Next (but significantly lower) on the list of countries expected to see a growth in trade with Canada is India at 15 per cent, followed by Mexico (10 per cent) and Brazil (eight per cent). The U.S., Canada’s conventional go-to trading partner, is a distant fifth at only five per cent.
While China is the preferred trade partner amongst business leaders who plan international expansion within the next five years, it was a close race between the next four countries. Twenty-nine per cent chose Mexico as the second-most favourable partner, followed by India at 26 per cent, Brazil at 25 per cent and the U.S. at 23 per cent.
The theme of growth extends to recruitment as well. The majority of business leaders say they will increase staff over the coming year, with 32 per cent of the increase expected to be in sales, followed by 20 per cent in marketing and promotion. Companies in Eastern Canada are particularly interested in growing staff, as 25 per cent plan on aggressive recruitment tactics. This East Coast desire for growth relates to the fact that over a third of those business leaders (36 per cent) are confident in the growth of the professional services sector.
About the survey
From April 9 – 19, 2012, Leger Marketing conducted an online survey among a sample of 250 Canadian business decision makers (CEO, executive level, senior managers). The margin of error for a sample of this size is accurate within 6.20%, 19 times out of 20.
Source: Canada Newswire