Jorge Andres Rave
Chief Representative Mexico
Export Development Canada – EDC
Expert Contributor

The Argument for Building a Better Canada Through Inclusive Trade

By Jorge Rave | Thu, 07/21/2022 - 11:00

Last year, Export Development Canada (EDC) launched a new corporate strategy to guide our ambitions, choices and actions, and to help us deliver the benefits of exporting to more Canadians. Through extensive research and open dialogue, we’ve realized that while there have been pockets of growth, Canada’s trade performance was falling behind its global peers. In fact, my country’s share of global exports has fallen from more than 4 percent in 2000 to 2.3 percent in 2018. That’s why regaining Canada’s standing as a leader in international trade is at the heart of EDC’s 2030 Strategy.

In a post-pandemic world, an important topic globally has been how to “build back better.” In other words, how to steer recovery toward creating more sustainable and inclusive economies. In line with that, one of the ways EDC will measure that impact and ensure our trade solutions are relevant and accessible to all Canadians is through targeting support for companies owned and led by members of equity-seeking groups: Indigenous peoples, Black and other racialized communities, persons with disabilities, women and the LGBTQ2+ community.

As my colleague Felipe Sanmiguel discussed in his recent MBN article, Canadian and global supply chains remain, to varying degrees and intensity, disrupted. This has exacerbated the economic challenges felt by equity-seeking businesses, which have been disproportionately impacted by these disruptions. This is in part due to the fact that these businesses are often active in industries more susceptible to disruption. The last two years have certainly been a test of the collective resilience of Canadian communities and businesses, particularly for those owned by these minority groups, who continue to demonstrate their spirit time and again.

With EDC being focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), a key goal in our support is to help level the playing field for these businesses to ensure that economic recovery is more equitably felt. That is why in 2021, we reorganized ourselves to enable EDC to adopt a more holistic and integrated approach to serving equity-seeking communities. The scope of our support has progressed from its initial focus on Women in Trade, to now include Indigenous and Black-owned and led businesses.

We’ve made significant strides toward understanding the unique needs of the groups noted above. In addition, we’re actively expanding our focus and understanding of the needs of businesses owned and led by other groups, such as racialized Canadians, the LGBTQ2+ community and persons with disabilities. To achieve its objectives, EDC has also set new 2023 targets for its support for Women in Trade and Indigenous businesses. As we learn more about the needs of businesses owned and led by these groups and the best ways to support them, we will be evolving our strategy and establishing further objectives to reflect this.

Along our journey, we’ve recognized that access to capital is one of the main barriers to growth faced by equity-seeking groups. Therefore, EDC has committed C$200 million in equity support through its Inclusive Trade Investments Program, as well as C$35 million of the C$150 million Indigenous Growth Fund (IGF), alongside government and industry partners to support Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada. This innovative evergreen fund will enable Indigenous entrepreneurs throughout Canada to receive the capital they require to start or expand their businesses through the Aboriginal Financial Institution (AFI) that serves them. 

We have made a conscious effort to increase access to funding that will help address some of the chronic liquidity shortfalls these businesses face, while providing capital to help them pursue their export objectives and to “go, grow and succeed” internationally.

Of course, EDC’s solutions are available to all Canadian exporters. That said, we believe that targeted support for equity-seeking groups, who have a lower awareness of or harder time accessing our programs will help ensure that our solutions are relevant and accessible, so that more Canadians benefit from engaging in trade. When exporting is viewed through an inclusive lens, it can advance the interests of groups who have faced barriers to trade to help their businesses grow and succeed, positively impacting the Canadian economy and its communities.

There are vast opportunities for more equity-seeking Canadian companies to become high-growth businesses with national and global ambitions. Alongside government and industry partners, we’re committed to continually evolving our approach to support these entrepreneurs. Success to EDC will be when there are more equity-seeking businesses providing their goods and services to the world.

Photo by:   Jorge Andres Rave