Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I am Peter McGovern, assistant deputy minister for Asia-Pacific in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I'm also chief trade commissioner of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. I am proud to represent the service and explain how it helps Canadian firms of all sizes create and sustain jobs for workers in all regions of the country by engaging successfully in international business.
I shall begin with our operating context since it continues to evolve rapidly and shape everything we do. Trade is now shorthand for a whole range of international business transactions: exporting and importing final and intermediate goods and services, attracting investment or making strategic investments abroad, licensing technology, partnering for research, recruiting skilled workers and internationally savvy managers, and more. All these links co-exist as businesses increasingly diffuse their operations around the world in global value chains to leverage local advantages.
More and more, trade takes place in the context of relationships with other links in the chain rather than one-off sales through a broker or distributor, and a firm's success depends on the strength of these relationships.
The small and medium-sized enterprises that dominate Canada's economy have huge new opportunities if they know how to find their way in this world. But it's a very complex one.
The big battleground is firm-level knowledge—knowledge of where to go, who is buying, who to trust, how to build relationships in different cultures, how to improve your ability to innovate, how to produce efficiently, and how to find new buyers in new markets. If your competitors are better supported and can find the opportunities faster and manage risk better than you, your firm has a problem.
Canadian SMEs don't need a handout, but many of them do need a leg-up to succeed in this environment.
This is why the government's global commerce strategy makes trade promotion one of its key thrusts. We bring real value to companies by constantly redeploying our trade commissioner service resources and focusing our services, pursuant to the strategy, to support our firms wherever and however they most need us, and to make sure they're not at a disadvantage.
Though we work with all sizes of companies, we are particularly sensitive to the barriers faced by small and medium size enterprises as they seek to grow through international business. The costs of acquiring market intelligence and investing in relationship-building are relatively higher for SMEs, but they are the principal motors of job creation in Canada, and we want to help them grow. Firms that enter export markets show 4% higher annual productivity growth than non-exporters. There's more. Research demonstrates that every dollar spent on the trade commissioner service generates $27 in increased exports and that firms that access our services export 18% more than comparable firms that don't. In short, higher productivity strengthens firms, international business stimulates productivity gains, and the trade commissioner service supports international business.
So there are sound reasons for this trade promotion thrust. But it's not just about getting Canadian firms to succeed abroad; it's also about bringing the benefits of the global economy to Canadian workers, businesses and communities, whether it's through new or expanded foreign direct investments, venture capital for technology start-ups, firm-to-firm management or R & D exchanges, successful competition with imports, or any of the other still developing ways that contribute to our standard of living.
We do not operate alone. Our trade commissioner service works hand in glove with federal services such as Export Development Canada, the Canadian Commercial Corporation, the Agri-Food Trade Service, Business Development Canada, and many others to foster business success. We have excellent partnerships with municipalities, provinces, and territories that allow us to move further and faster on their priorities, especially on promoting our many advantages as an investment location. Business is a partner as well as a client. Trade commissioners work inside priority sector associations, and business people freely contribute their expertise on Canadian sectors' needs, capacities, and specific operating environments to improve our strategies and services.
The beneficiary of all of this is the trade commissioner service's client, a firm or an organization with a demonstrated capacity for and commitment to internationalization. There are great rewards but also real risks in international business, and you must be up to the challenge. Our client must also have meaningful economic ties to Canada and demonstrate the potential to contribute significantly to Canada's economic growth.
The beneficiary of all this is the TCS client, who is a firm or organization with a demonstrated capacity for and commitment to internationalization.
There are great rewards but also real risks in international business, and you must be up to the challenge.
Our client must also have meaningful economic ties to Canada and demonstrate the potential to contribute significantly to Canada's economic growth.
We attract clients in two ways. Many come to us first to make a specific request, usually at one of our over 150 trade offices abroad, but also through our network of 18 regional offices across Canada and our web and telephone portals. The virtual trade commissioner, for example, is an online service that pushes market information and business leads to clients interested in specific sectors and markets. Last year we served over 13,000 Canadian firms, mostly SMEs, a 10% increase over the year before. Many become repeat customers as they see our services save them time, money, or risk.
We also seek out clients. We want all current exporters to be aware of our services. We can give them strategic advice on where and how to find opportunities or bring them critical intelligence that will allow them to land sales or acquire strategic technology in the face of foreign competition or protectionist, or even hostile, foreign governments. We want to work with business associations and through our regional offices to reach out to Canadian firms that are ready and need to grow internationally to succeed, firms for which the Canadian market alone is too small or crowded to sustain growth, so that we can help them build and execute their strategies.
Of course, global markets are constantly changing, and we must continually reallocate our resources to ensure that trade commissioners are in the places where clients need us most.
I'll give you one example. In December 2009, during his trip to China, the Prime Minister announced the expansion of our footprint in that market with the opening of six new trade offices.
This was clearly in line with government priorities and client demand.
How are we doing? Two measures that really count are these: is the client satisfied, and is the client actively pursuing a business opportunity thanks to our help? We survey our clients directly, and 78.2% of our respondents are currently satisfied or very satisfied. As for outcomes, over 50% of our clients are actively pursuing business in markets where they obtained a TCS service.
Mr. Chairman, before I close, I'd like to end with this final note. As the Minister of International Trade has said time and again, trade is a kitchen-table issue, one that concerns jobs and how people put food on the table and provide for their families. As we help companies succeed abroad, they create new jobs and prosperity for Canadian workers, businesses, and families in every region of our country.
Mr. Chairman, I would be delighted to respond to any questions that you or the members might have about Canada's trade commissioner service and its work to take Canada from a trading nation to a nation of traders.