Madam Chair and distinguished members, thank you very much for the opportunity to come before you today to offer a few observations about Canada's trade post-COVID.
By way of background, the Centre for Global Enterprise is a centre based at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, supported by both the public sector and the private sector with the mandate of enabling Canadian businesses to reach their full potential through engagement with international markets.
I believe you all have a slide deck that I prepared for this meeting. I will not go through it in detail. I'm happy to answer any questions. I'd just like to make a couple of observations, beginning with where we are and the trend line that Canada was on prior to COVID-19.
The first observation to make, on the first slide, is that Canada was about 2.5% of the global market back in 1980. Currently, depending on the measure, we're between 1.3% and 1.9% of the global market. Forecasts see us going down to 1% or slightly below by 2030. The implications are two: one, there's a lot of the global economy to engage with and, increasingly, growth is going to come from outside our borders; two is where this growth is going to come from, and that's on the second slide, which gives a sample of some economies. These are based on secondary sources, PwC, IMF and so on. They may differ in scale, but the observations, essentially, in terms of proportion, hold.
Canada and the United States will continue to grow, all things considered equal, but there are economies that are going to do better. There's no magic trick behind it. There are demographic reasons, urbanization, education, resource allocation, improving infrastructure and so on, to explain why these economies are expected to grow over the next 20 to 30 years at a faster pace than Canada's or indeed North America's.
The next thing is to take a snapshot of where our current trade is. If you go to the third slide, this is a listing of what PwC expects to be the top 20 economies in 2050. So, 30 years from now, for most of the people graduating from Schulich with MBAs or BBAs, this is sort of the time frame of their careers. If you take a look, you see the ranking of the economies and, again, that may differ as things evolve, but it also ranks Canada's trading relationship with them. As you can see, with very few exceptions, we are absent or nearly absent from a lot of the economies that are expected to grow and take leadership positions globally. Again, it's also very evident that our trade is extremely concentrated with two, possibly three, counterparties.
On post-pandemic, let's turn to what we believe the world is going to look like post-COVID, so over the next, say, zero to 24 months.
On things that are going to stay the same, the economic drivers behind trade and globalization aren't going to change. There may be some differences of degree, but the driving forces of demographics, economic expansion, resource allocations and deep-trade infrastructure are essentially going to remain the same. The other thing I would point out is that digitization of the economies adds a new dimension for engagement by Canadian companies, so that educational services, technical services and health care services, in which Canada excels, are all going to be more accessible on an online basis, or an e-commerce basis, opening a new dimension for Canadian trade with engagement with other countries.
The other thing that we're saying as well, which is unfortunate for a country seeking to diversify its trading partners, is that there's still this emphasis on regional or bilateral trade relationships. Most recently, we had the announcement of the RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which they announced last month, which is essentially China's answer to CPTPP. Essentially, it includes the entire east Asia region, which is a statement of both leverage, in terms of Chinese current economic relationships, and also intent. There is an intent to bring that region, on an isolated basis, closer to economic integration, and integrating within that region means that other markets or other potential trading partners may be disadvantaged.
Post-pandemic, what will change?
Rather than radical changes, I think the most likely outcome is that trends that were already visible pre-pandemic, like e-commerce and decarbonization of the economy, are going to continue and, indeed, accelerate. This is going to have a ripple effect through all economies going forward. Some economies will be affected more than others, but that is going to accelerate changes that were already expected to be in place.
The second thing that I think is important is that up until now globalization and supply tended to be focused on economic efficiency, pretty much to the exclusion of other considerations. The COVID situation, some of the political issues and some of the diplomatic trade issues we've had over the last number of years have underlined to businesses the fact that there are other risks. There are risks to supply chains both upstream—what happens if a port shuts down for an extended period of time and all your products are coming through there—but also downstream. What's your distribution like? If you're reliant on one particular market, if you're exporting pork to China and that's your sole market and they slap tariffs on it, you're in a difficult situation.
Businesses, I believe, will not necessarily onshore everything, but I think there will be moves to regionalize, to try to be close to the customer, as well as to diversify: having a plan B, having diversification in your markets and in your suppliers, or at least the access to substitutes in case your primary source of supply shuts down.
The other thing we don't know is how the social changes that have come through COVID-19—working from home, for example—are going to ripple through the real economy. A point to be made is that all economies are going to be affected differently. I did put a slide in here showing how COVID infections and total infections vary across a sample of countries. Some countries are obviously doing a lot better than we are. We are doing a lot better than other countries. Those countries that have had a fairly limited experience—I took a look at some of the east Asian countries—can be expected to rebound more quickly than other countries and with less permanent scarring to their economic landscape.
However, having said that, COVID-19 isn't the only factor. COVID-19 will have impacts on particular economic sectors that are more important for some countries than others. I would look at the tourism industry, for example. Petro states, depending on how COVID plays out and the ripple effects, could have a very difficult time getting back to where they were in January 2020.
I have a couple of suggestions for post-pandemic trade. First and foremost, let's start looking at where the growth is. It doesn't necessarily have to be the biggest economies, but economies that are expected to do a long-term trend line to growth should be very attractive to Canadian businesses, in particular because there are first mover advantages. If you can get into an economy that's growing quickly where demand isn't being satisfied or where demand is expected to expand, it's a lot easier to gain a substantial market share there than to try to penetrate a stagnant market with a lot of entrenched rivals.
The next thing is that tariff reduction and general trade agreements are good. They should be pursued, but, as services become more important, non-tariff barriers continue to proliferate. Agreements on things like data protection that are multilateral, things like IP, investor protections, contract enforcement, taxation harmonization and so on, even if they are outside a specific general trade agreement, are certainly worth pursuing.
The other thing to look at now, particularly post-COVID, is to realize that there are lots of other countries out there with a dominant trading relationship that may be particularly interested in forging new relationships and diversifying their current trade relationships. Just as we and Mexico have a situation with the United States as the dominant trading partner, many countries in east Asia, for example, have the same sort of relationship with China. Those are the kinds of countries that potentially pose a lot of good opportunities for Canada.
The other thing is to leverage “brand Canada”, particularly in the service industries and so on. Again, education, health care, technical services, commercial services, financial services are all places where Canada excels, and being able to deliver those with Canadian standards globally could be a real area of comparative advantage for us.
Let's now look at the companies themselves. Part of this observation is based on a survey that was done by Aimia back in 2016 of 350 different Canadian SMEs and their attitudes towards engaging with markets outside of Canada. Part of it is from focus groups that we ourselves have held since then.
What this seems to come down to is a risk-benefit analysis. Every company that is looking to potentially expand or do something abroad is looking at the opportunity cost and what the expected benefits are. The opportunity cost is not just financial cost, though. A lot of companies, particularly fast-growth companies, are looking at time, export allocations, availability of resources, availability of support and the risk of actually achieving what they want to achieve.
I think a lot of our focus going forward in terms of a post-COVID policy should perhaps be on improving the effectiveness of the existing machinery we have. We should put some oil in the machinery and try to get it to work more efficiently, from the perspective of the SME owner and executive, to reduce their opportunity costs, time, effort and risk in order to pursue a solution that is going to get them into international markets.
With that, I'd be happy to respond to any questions. Thank you very much.