Montreal Gazette

Canadian exporters in ‘lost decade’ slump

Emerging markets key to growth: economist

- GORDON ISFELD

OTTAWA — Canadian exporters have yet to emerge from a “lost decade” of missed opportunit­ies to broaden their reach into developing markets, according to a new report.

While companies have done well to break into the tough Chinese market, Canadians have been far less aggressive when it comes to emerging nations, CIBC World Markets said Tuesday.

This is limiting Canada’s ability to grow the economy at a critical time of global uncertaint­y, the report says.

“The volume of Canadian exports today is at the same level it was a decade ago,” said Benjamin Tal, CIBC deputy chief economist. “Regardless of how you look at it, this was a lost decade for Canadian exports. The lone bright spot has been in the very competitiv­e Chinese market.”

Canadian exports to China represent slightly more than one per cent of total shipments to that country, although this country’s share of the market has still managed to edge up over the 10 years, according to CIBC.

“In contrast, most other developed countries have seen their share of Chinese imports fall over that same period. And it is not an oil story, with petroleum only a small proportion of Canadian shipments destined for China,” it said.

At the same time, Canadian exporters have been “holding their own” against Chinese manufactur­ers attempting to expand into the United States.

“This success demonstrat­es that Canada can and should compete in other emerging markets,” Tal said.

Canada’s export performanc­e has been a source of concern for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, both of whom have been urging companies to increase their efforts to break into more emerging markets.

With consumer debt at recordhigh levels and the housing market showing signs of cooling, Canada will need to rely more on business investment and stronger exports to pull the economy out of its postrecess­ion slowdown.

Many companies have been hesitant to expand their markets in an uncertain global economy, and that — along with weak domestic demand — has kept Carney from raising the central bank’s trendsetti­ng interest rate, which has been at just one per cent for 2½ years.

The bank is widely expected to again leave that rate unchanged on Wednesday, when it will also issue its quarterly Monetary Policy Report on the latest economic outlook for Canada.

Meanwhile, the CIBC report was released on the same day that Statistics Canada said factory sales rose in February by the fastest pace since July 2011.

Sales were up 2.6 per cent, led by transporta­tion-sector shipments, even as manufactur­ers received four per cent fewer new orders in February.

“While the pickup in the volume of manufactur­ing sales in February is encouragin­g, part of the increase reflected rising sales in the lumpy aerospace component, which have much more muted implicatio­ns for monthly production estimates,” RBC Economics said.

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