Innovation and offering real customer benefits key to success in Canadian market


When we think of Canada we think of its natural landscape, its love of hockey and the maple leaf which has become its national symbol.

What people might not know is Canada is the second largest country in the world and a country which offers ambitious Northern Ireland companies a wealth of opportunities to grow their exports.

Canada is an important market for Northern Ireland, both as a trading partner for companies selling locally produced goods and services, and as a source of inward investment. Canadian companies such as Bombardier, McCloskey Engineering, Dalradian Resources and Magellan Aerospace have all invested in Northern Ireland and are important to the local economy, providing high value jobs, and carrying out leading edge research and development projects.

Growing economy

Over the last number of years, Canada has experienced strong economic growth which is based on several dynamic sectors including aerospace, ICT, automotive, food and life & health sciences. Northern Ireland has a thriving life and health sciences sector which offers expertise across precision medicine, clinical trials and digital health which will be of real value here in Canada. Similar to ours, Canada’s life and health sciences sector is growing exponentially with a focus on health innovation, particularly as Canada has an aging population. This provides excellent opportunities for our companies in this sector.

The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) has removed tariffs between the EU and Canada and opened up access to public contracts which is creating many opportunities for Northern Ireland companies in the services sector. This agreement is making it easier for our companies in this sector to bid for tenders at all levels of government across Canada.

Due to its size we recommend that companies, especially first time exporters, consider focusing initially on one particular region.

Canada is a large country with a similar business culture to Northern Ireland. Due to its size we recommend that companies, especially first time exporters, consider focusing initially on one particular region.

The Canadian market is a competitive one. There is tough competition from both Canadian and US companies which are able to offer lower priced products due to lower production costs. Therefore, in order to succeed, our businesses need to offer real customer benefits as well as being price competitive.

Innovation and relationships key to success

The key to being successful in the Canadian market is to be innovative, and to clearly communicate your value proposition. We highly recommend using our support to initially conduct research on the region you are hoping to enter and find out who your main competitors are. While English is the primary business language used, it is important to be aware that business in Quebec is conducted in French.

Building relationships across organisations is also key to doing business here. Canadians prefer to do business with a company that is already established in Canada, and it is important to have a local presence to gain trust. To help with this and ensure companies are able to follow up leads as quickly as possible, we offer financial assistance to return to the same market within six months of visiting as part of one of our trade missions. We can also offer market information about potential customers that can be of help in clinching a valuable deal.

Over 70 Northern Ireland companies are already successfully exporting to Canada. Our exports to the region are currently valued at £409m, mainly from machinery, transport and equipment exports, according to the latest HMRC statistics.

Supporting Northern Ireland companies

We are continually looking at ways to grow these exports and in September last year six companies from Northern Ireland took part in our Go Canada Programme, and in October, we took a further six Northern Ireland companies from our Materials Handling sector to the Waste and Recycling Expo in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Both these trips provided opportunities to explore new trade opportunities and begin important negotiations. In March we will be welcoming another group of Northern Ireland companies to Canada for the 2018 Go Canada programme and we look forward to assisting them to develop their exports and win new business.

Our new presence here in Toronto will allow us to build on our current exports and I will be focusing on the areas of advance manufacturing, Fintech, cybersecurity, financial services and legal services sectors where Northern Ireland has a strong reputation.

If you would like to explore breaking into the Canadian market which, thanks to the North American Free Trade Area, can also act as a springboard into the US and Mexican markets, please contact your Client Manager or call our Business Support Team on 0800 181 4422.