Tough talk on NAFTA and new tariffs between the United States and Canada might paint a cloudy picture for businesses, but a recent report shows exporters are still optimistic about their growth prospects.
A recent survey by Export Development Canada indicates that Canadian exporters are actually having trouble keeping up with demand and are benefiting from strong sales at home and abroad.
Peter Hall, chief economist with EDC, said a prosperous postrecession economy is the main driver for high sales and optimistic forecasts. Despite the Trump administration’s trade disputes with Canada, 46 per cent of businesses said sales to the United States had increased over the past six months, up from 36 per cent six months ago. Seventy-three per cent said they believe their overall sales will increase over the next six months, up from 56 per cent six months ago.
The Trump administration’s rhetoric on trade has become more drastic since the EDC survey of 1,000 businesses was undertaken between April and May, but Mr. Hall said he believes most exporters are still feeling positive.
“I don’t think anything has interrupted the optimism that is coming from the sales side,” he said. “Everybody that I spoke to [during the survey period] said, ‘We’re having a hard time keeping up with orders,’ and that’s exactly what the survey is saying right now.”
An increasing number of companies are exporting to new countries. Mr. Hall said that’s not just because of instability in the U.S. market, but because of high demand for products from other regions. “Western Europe is putting up numbers that are surprising everybody on the upside,” he said.
The one casualty of the tense trade climate has been investment, with a third of respondents saying they were delaying putting money into their businesses as a result.
In Toronto, Nick Wagner, president of Premise LED, which manufactures energy-efficient lighting, agreed with the positive statements of the survey, saying demand is present and the economy looks good.
“Our industry is booming,” Mr. Wagner said, adding that he is still seeing interest in his product at trade shows and conferences in the United States. “What’s happening in our industry is stronger than the politics.”
Mr. Wagner said he was initially worried that his sales would be adversely affected over the past few months, but that never happened.
“We’ve had our eyes open for it, for a let-down or a change in attitudes in our industry, and we just haven’t seen anything,” he adds.
In Nova Scotia, Louisbourg Seafoods also has not felt negative effects from the trade situation south of the border.
“The politicians and huge companies worry about these trade conflicts,” said Dannie Hansen, vice-president of sustainability at Louisbourg Seafoods. He said smaller and medium-sized companies such as his will not notice the trade dispute because they serve customers on a personal level and focus on the quality of their product.
Mr. Hansen said Louisbourg Seafood has noticed an uptick in sales of its products from countries in Asia and the demand is still there in the United States.