Thank you for this wonderful invitation. It is very much appreciated. First, I would like to point out that Mrs. Mandelbaum, who is with me, is the Director of Export Assistance for the Chambre de commerce de l'Est de Montréal. I am the President and CEO.
I would like to say a few words about the Chambre de commerce de l'Est de Montréal. Our organization covers a vast area located on the eastern half of the Island of Montreal. We cover half the Island and our area has 32,000 businesses. Our organization has 1,200 members working in 125 sectors of activity. More than 80% of our members are small and medium-sized businesses. Therefore, we are very familiar with the reality of SMEs. The Chambre de commerce de l'Est de Montréal hosts an ORPEX, or regional export promotion organization, which has four export specialists on staff. It is a real asset in terms of support for businesses that want to export. The Port of Montreal, which is the gateway for maritime shipping, especially with Europe and the Americas, makes our area a very strategic one. In short, we have a very strategic asset in our area.
How can the government foster export opportunities for SMEs, particularly with respect to CETA and the TPP? We have four suggestions.
We believe it is essential for the government to include in its efforts front-line service providers such as regional export promotion organizations, and that it work closely with them. These organizations have a special relationship with exporters, especially SMEs. Their close ties are particularly useful because SMEs often prefer that the organizations supporting them use a highly individualized approach. Additionally, our organization works with more than 200 exporting businesses every year, year after year. We have offered this service for 18 years. We can most definitely develop a relationship with the area's businesses and gain a sound understanding of their dynamics.
First, we simply want to tell you to make greater use of our organization. We have resources and we are on the ground. This is an advantage and an asset that the government can use to raise awareness among businesses and to inform them of the potential benefits of free trade agreements.
Second, it is important for the government to have a greater presence on the ground in order to reach out to SMEs. In the east end of Montreal, the Government of Canada's presence in the business community is insufficient. This lack of representation can be addressed in two ways. For example, we could ask that the businesses in the Montreal area that Government of Canada representatives cannot help, due to a lack of resources, be referred to organizations such as ours. Based on my personal experience, I can tell you that this has not happened very often. We have received few referrals from and had little contact with Government of Canada representatives concerning our export services. I think that there is a place for such referrals.
Third, the federal government could definitely increase its export services presence in the area. We can be a part of the solution and the government could also decide to increase its presence.
More tools, content and concrete information could be provided to SMEs. We invite the government to consider this option. In fact, our organization relays this information to businesses on its website, in its newsletters and with social media posts. These are different ways of reaching businesses. In that regard, the more information and documentation we receive from the Government of Canada, the more we can share them with businesses.
The fourth important element would be for the government to participate in events organized by organizations such as ours including training, team meetings, brainstorming sessions and presentations about government programs. We organize about fifty events a year, and we are quite open to having a greater Canadian government presence at these events.
We actually had an event a few months ago with the U.S. Consul General at the U.S. consulate to inform companies about how to export to the United States. That is the type of activity that we are very willing to organize with the Canadian government as well.
How much time do I have left, if any?