After a year of uncertainty, how confident are Canadian exporters feeling about international trade? This infographic details key takeaways from the Fall 2017 Trade Confidence Index.

Fall 2017 Trade Confidence Index: Taking a More Critical Look at the Next Six Months

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Fall 2017 Trade Confidence Index:

Taking a More Critical Look at the Next Six Months

The Fall 2017 Trade Confidence Index (TCI) was released on December 15. And as winter approaches, businesses are feeling a little colder towards exporting.

The TCI is a pulse check of Canadian exporters’ confidence in domestic and international sales opportunities over the next six months. Despite the unexpected display of confidence this spring, it seems that worldwide uncertainty may have caught up with Canadian businesses as the year comes to a close. Here are some highlights from the report.

TCI has decreased from 73.9 in Spring 2017

Trade confidence at a glance

Exporters’ confidence in their sales is decreasing.

16.1 to 15.6

Domestic sales

17.0 to 16.6

Export sales

13.4 to 13.2

Domestic economic conditions

Some of exporters’ fastest-rising concerns are:

Seasonal demand

Global protectionism

Interest rate hikes

 

On the bright side:

Exporters are more confident about future international opportunities.

 

12.8 to 13.3

World economic conditions

14.7 to 14.8

International business opportunities

 

Exporters are feeling increasingly optimistic about:

Improvements in the global economy

Lower oil and gas prices

Increased foreign opportunities

 

Which companies are most concerned?

Small and large businesses are feeling the pressure — but medium-sized businesses remain upbeat.

73.6 to 73.4

Small business TCI

74.5 to 73.7

Medium business TCI

71.6 to 74.0

Large business TCI

All regions experienced a decline in confidence, with the biggest being a drop of 2.7 points in the Atlantic.

TCI by region

Information and Communications Technology and Infrastructure and Environment were the only sectors to experience a TCI increase since Spring 2017.

TCI by market sector

The factors behind the drop

This season’s TCI drop isn’t unexpected — with so much uncertainty throughout 2017, it’s hard to imagine that businesses wouldn’t be affected.

Here are some changes Canadians are watching out for:

 

The impact of NAFTA

Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have a deeply intertwined trade relationship thanks to NAFTA. With the Agreement being renegotiated, many Canadian businesses are feeling more cautious about North American trade.

23%

Canadian businesses feeling negatively impacted by NAFTA negotiations

Of that 23%, Canadian companies’ indicated the following responses to NAFTA renegotiations

Canadian companies’ response to NAFTA renegotiations

 

Top markets for companies planning to diversify

Companies are diversifying into new markets

 

Preparing for CETA

With CETA in force as of September 21, Canadian exporters now have better access to a high-opportunity market with 500 million potential customers — but are they acting on it?

 

18%

Businesses developing new products, services or production processes for Europe

15%

Businesses increasing production to expand existing export volumes to Europe

 

26%

Canadian business paying more attention to the European market

Although it’s been an exciting year for Canada’s Free Trade Agreements, 56% of exporters indicated that FTAs have no effect on their exporting strategy.

 

Exploring the global economy/Diversifying markets

Other than the U.S., Canadian businesses’ activity in current market destinations decreased slightly.

Exploring the global economy/Diversifying markets

Top 5 challenges exporters face in China

Top 5 challenges exporters face in China

35 to 31
Exporters who started exporting to new countries in the last two years

Key markets of the last two years:

Key markets of the last two years

54 to 49
Exporters who plan to export to new countries in the next two years

Key markets for the next two years:

Key markets for the next two years

The Canadian economy

Between the current Canadian dollar and increasing interest rates, many businesses are feeling strain from the economy.

46 to 36

The number of exporters who believe they will benefit from the current value of the Canadian dollar has decreased since Spring 2017

On top of the low dollar, increased interest rates are impacting Canadian exporters.

21%

Exporters who indicate that higher interest rates negatively impact their exports

48%

Exporters impacted who say that high interest rates cost them more and lower their profit margins

34%

Exporters negatively impacted who are not planning to adapt to new interest rates

6 to 11
An increased proportion of exporting companies believe that the terms and conditions for obtaining financing will worsen

At-home growth has also dampened somewhat since Spring 2017.

 

40 to 37
A smaller proportion of exporting companies indicated they plan to increase hiring in the next 6 months

24 to 30
A larger proportion of exporters indicated that getting access to skilled labour will be very difficult

 

Looking to the future

Exporters’ confidence may have dropped slightly, but it’s not all bad news. Canadian businesses have a lot to feel optimistic about.

International investments are holding steady, with
23%
of companies investing or planning to invest outside Canada.

Of companies investing:

65%

established new branches

45%

built new warehouses

19%

acquired a foreign company

And even at home, where exporters are the most uneasy, companies have good reasons to believe they’ll continue to find success in the coming months:

15%

developed new products

12%

experienced growing demand for their products

9%

have forecasted domestic sales growth

If Canadians exporters’ drop in confidence seems worrisome, keep this in mind:

The surge of confidence in the Spring 2017 TCI was unexpected, and despite uncertain political and environmental climates, today’s TCI is still 1.2 points higher than this time last year.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed—and survived—much greater TCI drops. So, while it’s smart to stay cautious, now isn’t the time to hold back on finding new international opportunities for your business.

 

About the Trade Confidence Index

Conducted twice a year since 1999, our Trade Confidence Index (TCI) is a pulse check of Canadian exporters’ level of confidence and their expectations of international trade opportunities over the next six months. It is a composite score based on responses to questions regarding five elements: export sales, international business opportunities, world economic conditions, domestic sales, and domestic economic conditions.

Fall 2017 Trade Confidence Index: Taking a More Critical Look at the Next Six Months was last modified: July 17th, 2018 by Export Development Canada.
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