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View Lawrence Toet Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Zilberbrant, I was intrigued by the comment you made about evening the playing field domestically as well as in the foreign sector. I would assume that your company is somewhat involved in the foreign sector and that it would also apply to you with regard to some of your materials.
I'm just very curious about the importance of that, for instance, when you're talking about carbon emissions and the need for those to be equal.
Why is it so important for Canada as we go forward to make sure we have an even playing field not only domestically but also with all of the foreign entities and especially the ones we have to trade with?
Greg Zilberbrant
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Greg Zilberbrant
2015-06-09 9:48
I'm referring to the fact that when we look at something like cement, we are a commodity-based business and a commodity-based business on a very large scale in terms of volume and tonnage. The importance of the foreign aspect of the even playing field is the fact that our material can travel quite a distance, and manufacturing facilities in other parts of the world can send their material quite a distance.
The even playing field is really a reflection of our ability to remain competitive in the domestic market considering other jurisdictions that may not have the same impact on whatever the carbon mechanism is and that are able to import into Canada.
Thang Nguyen
View Thang Nguyen Profile
Thang Nguyen
2015-06-04 13:06
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the subcommittee.
Last year I appeared before the subcommittee to address the trafficking of Vietnamese workers in some 40 countries across the globe, such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Jordan, France, England, Cyprus, and even America, and Algeria, Ghana, and many other countries.
This form of modern day slavery is rooted in the Vietnamese government's official labour export program. Today I would like to address the broader issue of workers' rights in the context of the ongoing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, in which Canada is a negotiating partner.
In early 2014, we invited the mother of Do Thi Minh Hanh to testify before the U.S. Congress. Do Thi Minh Hanh is a labour union organizer. She was serving a prison sentence for her efforts to organize labour unions in Vietnam. That hearing and effective advocacy by labour unions galvanized close to 200 U.S. members of Congress to make the right of Vietnamese workers to form free and independent trade unions a major component of the TPP agreement.
Last month, even President Obama publicly stated that that is the precondition for Vietnam joining the TPP. Vietnam is the only TPP negotiating partner that outlaws free and independent labour unions. All organizers of independent labour unions in Vietnam have either been imprisoned or fled to other countries to avoid arrest.
Twelve months ago, we launched a campaign to make religious freedom an objective of TPP negotiations. On May 22, just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Senate passed the trade promotion authority, also known as fast track, with specific language that sets religious freedom as one of the trade negotiation's priorities.
We are urging the U.S. House of Representatives right now to adopt the same amendment. If signed into law, this will be the first time in U.S. history that religious freedom will be an objective of trade negotiations. This is particularly important because TPP will not be just another trade agreement, as its name implies; TPP will also send a message to the world that its members regard each other as trusted partners.
As such, TPP membership should not be extended to governments that brutally repress religion. The repression of religion is ongoing in Vietnam. Forced renunciation of faith is still commonplace in many provinces. Catholicism is practically outlawed in the three northern provinces of Dien Bien, Son La, and Lai Chau. Religious leaders and followers have been physically assaulted, or even tortured—some of them to death.
We estimate that some 150 to 200 people are currently in prison because of their faith. The Vietnamese national assembly is considering the country's first law on religion. Its current draft stipulates that all religious group activities, even in private homes, must be pre-registered with and approved by the government.
It will be hard for the U.S. government or any government in the free world to justify becoming a partner of such a repressive regime. I therefore urge the Canadian House of Commons through this committee to support our efforts to use the ongoing trade negotiations as leverage to promote human rights in Vietnam, particularly workers' rights to form free and independent labour unions and all citizens' rights to religious freedom. After all, trade should contribute to a better world and not strengthen the hands of tyrants.
Thank you.
Francisco Suarez Davila
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H.E. Francisco Suarez Davila
2015-06-02 11:05
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It is really a privilege to participate in these hearings organized by the foreign affairs committee on the possible issues faced by the next North American leaders' summit. Events and ideas have certainly shifted since I last had the pleasure to be in Parliament, in the Senate last year, but I think the changes have been mostly for the good.
Although of course we face old and new challenges, some of which can be solved in the short term, others will require a long-term agenda. I think three in particular are good news. Canada and Mexico, acting together, are making progress to reverse the U.S. protectionist measures on COOL. That's really good news. We're working together with Canada on the TPP negotiations. There has also been significant progress made on the very difficult issue of ISIS.
I will attempt to highlight 10 very quick points, the main topics that I believe are essential for the North American agenda.
First, obviously, is energy cooperation. I think that's the real and the most important driver for trilateral cooperation. Of course, there are new factors, one of which is the falling price of oil. In the short term, that has reduced the appetite for investment, particularly in deepwater drilling and shale-oil fracking. But Mexico's energy performance is in the process of full implementation. It will require some adjustments in that the investment will take place not in deepwater or shale gas but in the easier areas.
The three energy ministers met for the first time in Washington at the end of last year to put in place, for the first time, a working agenda. An important part is a shared medium-term energy outlook on the potential. Mexico sees energy as a driver to push forward the industrialization process. Particularly, we see that cheap gas will give the area a vast competitive edge in manufacturing, in automobiles, and in aerospace. This has triggered lots of investment.
Last week there was a second ministerial meeting of the three energy ministers working together on climate change, clean energy technologies, energy efficiency, and carbon capture. Electricity generation is often forgotten. One speaks about oil, in the case of Mexico, but electricity generation and converting from fuel oil to gas will require significant investment in the order of $90 billion. Another area in which we're working closely with Canada is on best regulatory practices in shale gas and avoiding water pollution and waste. Here we are working very closely with the energy regulator in Alberta.
Large investments are already taking place in oil and gas pipelines within our country and linking them to the borders. Mexico will be building a total of 10,000 kilometres' worth of pipelines with about $20 billion in investment. Canadian companies like TransCanada and ATCO are already working on something like 2,000 kilometres of pipelines, which is the the size of Keystone. That's already in place.
The area of trade negotiations is a very significant area. I mentioned that we're working together to reverse the U.S. measures on COOL, but we're also working very closely with Canada to advance on TPP negotiations. Although we have cautious optimism on the part of Mexico, we think we could be able to conclude an agreement by the end of the year. We view TPP as an area to expand trade with Asia, as you do, but also as the easiest way to update and upgrade NAFTA to make it a second-generation, state-of-the-art treaty.
We have two main concerns, I think, that are probably the main obstacles. If there is no fast-track authority by the U.S. Congress, then this won't move forward. The second concern is that the U.S. Congress does not overburden the negotiations with issues that of course are important in their own right but are related to the domestic agenda and have nothing to do with trade. Take religious liberty and whether we agree with religious liberty. That has nothing to do with trade, and it will create a cost on other countries—not for us, obviously.
Intellectual protectionism is creeping. We obviously believe in intellectual property, but intellectual property protected for a century is perhaps a bit excessive. This might affect areas like pharmaceuticals, which need a more limited period of protection. We have, of course, the usual suspects in such products as dairy and apparel, but as I mentioned, we are confident that we can come to an agreement by the end of the year.
Border competition I won't mention. I think stupendous work has been done by my colleagues at the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. I think there we were working a bit at cross purposes.
There are two border commissions. One is a border commission and one is a regulatory commission. One is between the U.S. and Canada, and the other one is between the U.S. and Mexico. To some extent some of the border issues are specific, but some were common. I think now we're working to have some amount of convergence.
In terms of infrastructure investment, the three countries lack infrastructure investment along our borders, and within our borders. We have a vast program totalling $600 billion. There again we will be working on roads, railroads, and ports. There is a large megaproject for Mexico City with a fantastic Norman Foster design. Canadian companies like Bombardier are active in these fields.
There's a great deal of Mexican interest in working on the logistic corridors. A clear logistic corridor is one that goes from Winnipeg right down the centre of the United States and into Mexico, and there's interest in investing in CentrePort in Winnipeg. As I think some of the other speakers have said, I think NADB is North American in name only. It's an institution that can really work to invest for the three countries in the infrastructure and in environment.
In terms of innovation and education, I think it's essential to invest in those. Education links are substantially lacking despite the great progress that has been made in trade and investment. The three countries are now working on relevant programs that are specifically to increase the number of scholarships and to increase the number of agreements between universities and businesses to promote joint products for investment and technology. We will be working with Canada and with Canada's international education division on the science and technology agreement between Canada and Mexico.
People mobility is a more ample concept and less politically sensitive one than is labour mobility. We're very pleased with the recent decision by the Canadian government, as the letter from the Prime Minister to our President says, to eliminate visa requirements for a very large number of Mexicans. As you know, this means requirements for visas will be reduced or they will be replaced with the new trend, which is an electronic travel authority. We very much welcome this. There are some outstanding issues. Perhaps I can comment on those later. We already have a political decision by the three leaders to have a North American trusted traveller program linking NEXUS, Global Entry, and SENTRI.
The Mexico-Canada seasonal agriculture workers program has been a success for 40 years. We have been working particularly with some of the western provinces that have severe shortages of semi-skilled workers, and we would hope some progress will be made so that eventually agreements would be made to facilitate the movement of semi-skilled workers for which there is need in the western provinces.
We are convinced that we cannot make progress if diplomacy does not extend to governors and premiers. Fortunately, for the first time, in Colorado in November, there will be a meeting of the governors and premiers of the three countries, which will be great in preparing for the summit. I think we have to work in cooperation towards our continent, and I think there Mexico and Canada should work to collaborate with Cuba in its transition process, and we have to work with Central America and Haiti. Otherwise I think we will have problems requiring a wide vision.
I want to emphasize that our starting point, our best economic platform, is North America itself. Trade within North America is more than $1 trillion, more than trade with TPP countries which, excluding US and Canada obviously, is $800 million.
Trade with Europe is less than trade within North America. Our key priority is to make our region more dynamic and competitive. The North American countries are obviously among the largest and most dynamic countries in the world. In 2013 Mexico was the eighth-largest economy. I think we can no longer see it as a question of trade. It is a matter of value chains, and there the intraregional trade is very important.
I would point out that there's a basic trend emerging in which Mexico in some quarters is not seen as a complement but rather as a competitor, particularly in the automobile sector. I think we have to work there on a good narrative to convince people that it's not labour costs. It's overall productivity and a host of other factors, but the North American automobile and aerospace industries are integrated. A car produced in Mexico has Canadian and U.S. parts.
I will make a number of last remarks, a conclusion.
After two full winters as Mexico's ambassador to Canada, I want to conclude on a positive, personal note with optimism, obviously encouraged by the summer weather and having survived two particularly hard winters. After that, it's nothing: I can be positive; I can be optimistic.
On the future of North American corporations, I have discussed all of this during this period with bilateral skeptics who return to the past, with trilateral enthusiasts who look to the future, with those who measure results by the half-full glass, and with others by a half-empty one.
Twenty years of NAFTA, in my view, yielded huge results, but that grand old lady has aged and has become wrinkled. I feel now that over the past two years we are in the spirit of a revival. People like former Secretary George Shultz have spoken of it, in recent fora, as a North American economic powerhouse. This is compared with secular stagnation in Europe and Japan and with emerging countries, which are losing momentum.
I think we have new drivers of growth. It's energy. It's trade negotiations. It's infrastructure investment. Mexico is becoming a new growth driver, approaching growth rates of 4% to 5%, and there is a manufacturing revival in the region, new ideas and new studies. In my view, the relationship between Canada, Mexico, and the United States has now increased and covers a wide spectrum of topics, with increasing depth, with an increasing number of actors from the business community, thinkers, provincial and city governments, fora, institutional mechanisms like the Canada-Mexico Partnership. There are new flights coming every day and large investments both ways. Now Bimbo is investing in Canada. I think it almost doesn't matter if top governments are involved in electoral matters. We're getting to know each other better. There are of course obstacles and issues, but we are advancing at different speeds according to the issues. It's nothing dramatic, but I think there's an inner momentum and steady progress.
I will conclude by particularly congratulating your committee because you're acting with great vision and a great sense of timeliness in getting together these ideas well ahead of the summit. I really congratulate you because I think it's really far-sighted.
Thank you very much for inviting me.
Eric Miller
View Eric Miller Profile
Eric Miller
2015-06-02 11:18
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, members of the committee, for the invitation and for shining a light on this important topic.
The Canadian Council of Chief Executives is an organization composed of the CEOs of Canada's leading enterprises that are responsible for the vast majority of Canada's exports, investment, and research and development.
Member companies of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives collectively administer $6 trillion in assets and have annual revenues in excess of $800 billion across every economic sector of the Canadian economy.
It has been more than two decades since Canada, the U.S., and Mexico removed most of the formal barriers between our economies through the North American Free Trade Agreement, yet the intervening years have seen relatively few refinements to our cross-border frameworks. Because economic competitiveness requires ongoing effort, not just one-off actions, however bold, our commercial arrangements must evolve as well.
With the forthcoming North American leaders' summit in mind, the council decided to set forth our ideas for how we can concretely make improvements to the continent's competitiveness. The result was this paper, which some of you may have seen, “Made in North America”, which sets forth 44 concrete recommendations on how to make our continent more competitive. The document reflects consultations we had in Ottawa, as well as in Washington and Mexico City.
Our recommendations were guided and are guided by today's realities that no country in North America has the fiscal space for significant new appropriations, nor are we in the business these days of creating many new institutions. We've identified actions that are achievable within our means, and we found there's much that we can do.
In the years since NAFTA, Canada has oscillated between supporting deeper trilateral engagement with the U.S. and Mexico and supporting deeper bilateral engagement with the United States. We see this as a false choice. A better approach would be to apply the principle of subsidiarity. We will pursue cross-border policies at the level at which it makes sense, whether trilateral, bilateral, or regional among states and provinces. Pragmatism and viability should be at the core of our future North American competitiveness agenda.
As the Canadian government prepares to host the North American leaders' summit later this year, what should specifically be on their agenda? A core area for improvement is to bring the border into the digital age. Enhanced data sharing can be the foundation for a new partnership between the public and private sector. If done properly, it can drive both improved border security and supply chain efficiency.
Many companies believe that supply chain visualization technologies, which allow them to comprehensively monitor their production networks, and the application of big data analytics to predict behaviour therein is the wave of the future. Yet if you look at how we do things today, companies are presently making statutory declarations about the origins of the goods they are importing and their compliance with regulations and whatnot, based on information that they did not create or verify. Why? Because 20 years ago, when the rules were put in place, we did not have the technology to accurately track a manufacturing input three or four stages back in China, or wherever it was being produced, so what we did was encourage companies to effectively police their supply chains by threatening to severely fine them if the information on the declaration wasn't correct, even if that incorrect information was clearly unintentional. In 2015 we now have the technology to remotely monitor and predict what's going on in our supply chains. The challenge is that this is expensive.
In order to get to this grand new bargain between the public and private sector, what should we do? The federal government should begin a series of cross-sector pilots with companies willing to visualize their supply chains and share their data and analysis. Companies that participate would receive an exemption from penalties, except, of course, in the cases of fraud or malfeasance, and perhaps an exemption from certain tariffs or fees. In other words, you would go to your board and show an investment case for why this is being done. After testing, the lessons learned would be integrated into a program for all companies within Canada, and then, of course, we would seek to work with our partners in the United States and Mexico to extend this across North America.
By applying these types of rules, the private sector would learn much more about what is happening in their individual supply chains and where to derive efficiency gains. For its part, the government would get access to vast new quantities of structured data that would deliver insights about goods entering, leaving, or transiting Canada. In short, this deeper public private partnership would deliver enhanced trade facilitation and smarter security.
Technology can also deliver benefits on the traveller side. We all know NEXUS is an excellent program. We see this as an excellent platform on which to build enhanced benefits. It presently tells the government who is crossing the border but not why.
One of the most difficult issues in border policy pertains to business travellers and when someone arrives at the border they are asked that all terrifying question, “Are you working?” One of the consequences of the closure of the Citizenship and Immigration offices in the U.S. is that increasingly business travellers and others who need their cases for entry adjudicated simply go to the border, and this has led to a good amount or randomization in terms of treatment.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is calling for the development of a program known as the trusted employer program. Canada can do the same. How we think this should work is to pick up on the same vision of using technology to drive efficiency. We take the NEXUS platform and we build trip-specific information on top of this. You could get your general counsel to put in, “I'm going to cross at this time and here's the legal justification for what I'm doing”.
What we learned from cargo shipments is that providing information in advance leads to more efficient crossings. We need to do this with frequent travellers as well.
The report, of course, lays out a series of other things that I'm happy to get in to in the Q and A. We talk about remaking the workflow processes at the border to drive efficiency gains, using public-private partnerships to drive significant improvements in border infrastructure, working with the auto industry to significantly reduce the paperwork burden facing North American-built automobiles, picking a couple of successful areas in Canada-U.S. regulatory cooperation and experimenting with trilateralizing them with Mexico, and making the rules of origin among the Canada, U.S., and Mexico free trade agreements with Europe talk to each other.
I would conclude this way though. North America has the potential to be the most dynamic and prosperous region of the world economy for many years to come. From energy to innovation to good governance, we have all the right elements to succeed. All we are lacking is the will. To lead in the 21st century we must be smarter not only in our policy design but in the application of our corresponding regulations, procedures, and technological systems. Let us commit now to fully seizing this opportunity.
View Marc-André Morin Profile
We are talking about programs to support exports, but government policies can also be obstacles. For instance, there is a company called Enzyme in my riding that specializes in adapting video games. I saw the problems firsthand. The company was adapting video games into Kazakh and needed programmers who spoke Kazakh. If a job like that was posted at the Saint-Jérôme employment centre, I'm sure they they would not find anyone.
Shouldn't we have an industry development policy in Canada to enable the companies to grow and survive locally? Exporting could come later.
Corinne Pohlmann
View Corinne Pohlmann Profile
Corinne Pohlmann
2015-05-04 16:41
Now you're talking about all of the other issues that we certainly work on within our organization.
Even our data tells us that a good chunk—60% or so—are not ever going to get involved in export because it's just not exportable. However, definitely barriers around red tape within Canada and standards.... Even within Canada, going from one province to another, there can be barriers. I think we need to fix those just as quickly as we're trying to fix some of the international barriers.
In fact, some of the work on internal trade that's ongoing is promising for the first time. It shouldn't be easier to do business in the United States than it is to do business in another part of Canada. We should encourage companies to do more trade within Canada, and there are still too many barriers in place for some of them to do that.
View Don Davies Profile
I think the Obama administration has done some work in that area of trying to reduce tariffs to zero for all environmental goods and services as a means of stimulating. It not only is good for business, but it may be good for the environment as well.
In my last time here, I want to give each of you a minute. I'm now deputizing—
The Chair: You only have a minute left.
Mr. Don Davies: I have a minute, so you have 15 seconds each. If you could do one thing, if you could advise the government to do one thing that would help SMEs increase their international trade, what would it be?
We'll start with you, Mr. Turi.
Philip Turi
View Philip Turi Profile
Philip Turi
2015-05-04 17:01
Obviously, continuing to open markets is huge, so let's continue to invest in opening new markets. That's vitally important. With respect to the direct funding, follow some of things I was outlining earlier. Let's not put up too many barriers, let's not create limitations based on size and history, and let's look at the export potential of each project. It doesn't have to be a massive type of fund where we're funding thousands of companies. I think that if you focused on smaller companies, greater impact, more potential, I think this would have a better chance of moving the needle.
Joy Nott
View Joy Nott Profile
Joy Nott
2015-05-04 17:02
I would say advertise, advertise, advertise, and no, that doesn't necessarily mean television commercials and an extended budget. That's not what I'm saying. There are things like Facebook, Twitter. There are all kinds of things. Get the word out there for what services are available.
Corinne Pohlmann
View Corinne Pohlmann Profile
Corinne Pohlmann
2015-05-04 17:02
Reduce trade barriers. Ultimately, that's the biggest impact for a small company. Whether that's a free trade agreement or whether that's importing into Canada through CBSA, just try to reduce them as much as possible.
Terry Bergan
View Terry Bergan Profile
Terry Bergan
2015-04-29 15:52
Thank you, committee members.
I provided a fairly lengthy briefing of what I'm going to say, so I'll sort of skip through that.
International Road Dynamics is a small technology company that got started in the 1980s by the three of us. We grew it through R and D to demonstration of our product to commercialization in a very large marketplace called intelligent transportation systems. Basically our systems, our instrumentations, our weigh-in-motion devices help make highways safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly.
There are applications for our business worldwide. We have subsidiaries in the United States, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, India, and China. Some are wholly owned and some are shared with a joint venture partner who's local. To date we've exported to 76 countries worldwide. Ninety-five per cent of our revenues are export. We've delivered over $700 million worth of equipment to customers worldwide.
In my briefing paper I talk a little more about what's happening on the ground. I'm head of the international portion of our business, which is anything offshore of North America. Anything between Canada and the United States we internally describe as our domestic business. That being said, there is a distinct difference between doing business in the United States and Canada, and in the United States and the rest of the world. There are various degrees of differences in different parts of the world. With operations in Chile, we enjoy the business throughout Latin America, and with operations in China and India, we enjoy business in those regions as well.
Over the years, we've taken advantage of and appreciated many of the programs that were targeting exports, such as trade missions. I can't emphasize enough how important those trade missions are. In many countries, being there with a government official is the best endorsement a company can get, just as when I bring overseas buyers into Canada, having a federal or provincial or even city official with us is very important.
We've participated in Team Canada missions. We've participated with Prime Minister Harper in India. It's very good exposure. The assistance it provides, especially for an SME, helps extend a limited budget for exploring and growing markets. When you're in the technology business, a lot of times you don't have a lot of time. If the opportunity is there, you have to get out there.
We really appreciate the work of the consulates and embassies. That's the first phone call I made in 1980, and I continue to make it today. We've worked with ambassadors and commercial officers everywhere we do business, and they are a great help in providing guidance and insight and in getting over the bureaucracy or some of the uniqueness in each of those countries.
I know that the CCC backed off a little bit, but we made use of the CCC, and it made the difference for us in getting a significant job in Saudi Arabia. We didn't have to sign it with the CCC, because once we brought them to the table, the Government of Saudi Arabia accepted our credibility because the Government of Canada was there, and we went ahead without it. We have worked on projects not led by IRD but through other Canadian companies and have used CCC government-to-government contracts.
In the early days, CIDA was very important to us in market studies, the funding to provide those, and the funding to explore markets and find out where there was funding to carry on fairly significant projects. Once again I encourage the activity of the CCC.
I just can't say enough good things about EDC. We would be an American or European company if it weren't for EDC. As I said in our briefing paper, technology is one thing and we had some challenges with technologies early on, but for us, as an export company, it wasn't the technology or the credibility that was the greatest issue, it was financing our exports. In many cases Canadian banks are good but they really don't have the insight into what's happening in international markets. If it weren't for EDC, just because of financing, we probably would have had to sell the company.
So we use all of the EDC programs today to help guarantee our exports, help guarantee our lines of credit, bonding in these countries and, of course, payment guarantees.
That brings us to the fact that all of these programs are really good. We took advantage of them and we appreciate them. They encourage the small SME companies to go into the marketplaces, but business is done differently elsewhere. I heard Argentina mentioned, and I can give you lots of warnings about Argentina, Brazil, India, and China. We have an anti-corruption policy, which I fully support, but that said, it is different in these countries. These countries are experts in getting you into a position where you're at their mercy.
Just to give you an example, an SME goes into a country supported by the Government of Canada, you meet companies and you're greeted and you think they're good companies and you enter into a contract and maybe things aren't as specified as you would like them to be, which is typical in many of these countries. Then it gets to the point where you're trying to deliver, you get into a little bit of trouble, you have to go to the customer to try to get that sorted out, and in the meantime you have a receivable that's coming due from Canadian banks. They're after you after 30, 60, or 90 days, and the payment cycles are different and pretty soon you're at the mercy of the customer, and right away you're then set up for a bribe.
It happens time and time again. I've had it happen in Brazil, India, China, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, you name it; it's out there and it's the way they do business.
I think that's one area I really encourage Foreign Affairs, the embassies, and consulates to get involved. I think they've got to go out and educate the potential customers, the governments, of the challenges that Canadians companies have in doing business and understanding the bureaucracy—but most importantly so that we don't participate in the corrupt ways that business is done in many of these countries.
Embassies and consulates could keep a clean hands list of companies that they know and that are clean and make sure that the government officials know that is the way that Canadian companies are going to do business. That way we can help with avoiding that challenge.
One of the areas in many of these countries, just like in North America, is infrastructure, which is the game that's being played right now as governments worldwide are investing in infrastructure. There are tremendous opportunities for Canadian companies. As I mentioned earlier there's Japan, but there are also many other countries that are very active in supporting their exporters, especially in the infrastructure game—
View Don Davies Profile
I have only a little bit of time left, so I am going to ask each of you to respond very quickly.
In Canada, 99% of businesses are SMEs, and we know that only about 10% of those businesses engage in international trade. All of us on this committee want to raise these numbers and get more SMEs engaged in trade.
If you could give the government one piece of advice as to something that would help in that regard, what would it be?
I'll start with you, Mr. Bergan, and then go to you, Mr. Hicks.
Terry Bergan
View Terry Bergan Profile
Terry Bergan
2015-04-29 17:00
I guess I'd like to start where we started. We used the foreign services and went overseas. We went and found the markets. The trade services were very good at introducing us to people and customers and at helping us with advice on how to enter the markets.
As I said earlier, I think the first step for many SMEs should be the United States, because they conduct their business very similarly to how we conduct ours. As far as currency goes, we deal in eight different currencies with our subsidiaries, and we use inactive hedging and a factoring program and are able to manage our currency risk very well.
Mike Hicks
View Mike Hicks Profile
Mike Hicks
2015-04-29 17:00
I agree with Mr. Bergan.
I would have said something similar to that, but I would like to throw in again that you need to have a skilled and qualified workforce in Canada for what you do. Be the best at what you can do. Again, as I said, in our industry, we need to exceed industry standards, not just compete at industry standards. Please continue to fund the high schools, the community colleges, and so forth to increase the skill level of Canadians.
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