Mark Agnew

Trade and Economic Advisor

Part of UK in Canada

17th December 2013 Ottawa, Canada

The anatomy of an export action plan

A few weeks ago I attended Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast’s announcement of the government of Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan. Reading through the document, I was struck by the parallels to the UK’s approach to increasing exports – even the use of similar phrases like “economic diplomacy”!

At a broad level it’s clear that governments need to be firing on all cylinders to create the conditions for businesses to export. I think we frequently see the world in binary terms – it’s either the developed high GDP per capita countries or the rapidly growing emerging markets. In reality, it’s crucial to go after both and the Canadian government’s plan clearly articulates this imperative.

Canada is the UK’s third largest export market outside Europe, the US and China.

That’s some great government speak, but what does that mean in the real world?

I can’t cover everything in this blog, but I will mention a few:

Links to the private sector are a vital starting point since this informs where governments should direct their efforts and leverage the country’s strengths – the UK government, for example, probably shouldn’t deploy a cactus export strategy!

Another factor is trade agreements. These come in all shapes and sizes, but the UK and Canada are strong supporters of freer trade through the World Trade Organisation, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and a whole range of others including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The last part to mention here is what most call “trade promotion.” This is where the rubber hits the road and on the ground expertise helps businesses break into the market. Here it was interesting to compare small and medium enterprises (SMEs) export targets – the UK seeks to get 100,000 more SMEs exporting in the next five years and double overall exports to £1 trillion by 2020.

While admittedly in some respects Canadian and British businesses are competitors, there is still lots our countries can learn from each other on what works for supporting business. Not only that, but on issues such as trade liberalisation, the Global Markets Action plan reaffirms where the two countries’ goals are complementary, with the CETA being a recent demonstration.

2 comments on “The anatomy of an export action plan

    1. Thanks for the comment. Most are often surprised when they learn what the trade in goods breakdown is. Some of Canada’s top exports to the UK include natural resource minerals, metals, and aerospace products. It may interest you to know that in 2012, according to Canadian trade statistics, Canada’s top export to the UK was gold!

      Some of the top UK exports to Canada include petroleum products, aircraft products, pharmaceuticals, and beverages.

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About Mark Agnew

Mark has served as the Trade and Economic Advisor at the British High Commission since 2011.

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