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On Jan. 5, 2016, the federal government announced a new program offering financing and incentives to enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to explore growth opportunities in foreign markets. The CanExport program will provide $50-million over the next five years to help Canadian SMEs take advantage of global export opportunities and increase their global competitiveness.

If you've been contemplating new global exporting opportunities, here are some important things you should know about the CanExport program.

How it works

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If you've felt constrained from global exporting because of a lack of resources, you may be able to take advantage of CanExport for financial support for a wide range of export opportunities.

The program will provide $10,000 to $100,000 in matching contributions to qualifying SMEs over the next five years. You'll be able to have one active CanExport project at any given time and can reapply once your current activities have been conducted and all claims have been processed.

Companies in most sectors are eligible to apply to CanExport. To qualify, you need to employ fewer than 250 people and have annual revenue in Canada of between $200,000 and $50-million. Your eligible activities must promote export development and go beyond your core activities, as well as represent new or expanded initiatives.

The program provides flexibility to enter a market of your choice, with a few exceptions. You'll need to detail your rationale as to why you've chosen this particular market and confirm that you haven't exported to this market in the past 24 months.

CanExport reimburses up to 50 per cent of eligible expenses. For a full list of eligible and ineligible activities and expenses, please see the Applicant's Guide to the CanExport program.

Why now is a good time to go global

With the U.S. dollar high, many Canadian SMEs can generate revenues in U.S. currency and expand into new markets. Investing in international markets can help you mitigate business and currency risks. Diversifying customer and supplier bases can help reduce volatility and provide increased certainty around your overall growth plan and help you achieve your long-term growth objectives.

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Many SMEs in Canada recognize the importance of innovation as a necessary component to survive and grow. To be competitive in the global marketplace, you may need to invest in processes, equipment and technology that will boost the quality of your goods and services and help put you on the map as a global exporter.

Applying now to the CanExport program can help you become a trailblazer in your industry, and can offer the opportunity to rethink and reinvent your long-term strategy and build a culture of innovation that values idea generation.

Spread the word about your company

Building your business beyond borders can be challenging and requires serious planning. To successfully export, you need to gain knowledge and experience about the world outside Canada and put that knowledge to use in your international and domestic business.

CanExport can assist you with financial support for a wide range of marketing activities. Eligible activities under the program must aim to promote international business development and must go beyond your core activities, represent new or expanded initiatives and provide an opportunity to yield incremental results.

Examples may include business travel, participation at trade fairs, market research, adaptation of marketing tools for a new market and legal fees associated with a distribution/representation agreement.

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An increased profile abroad can help your company take advantage of new markets while creating good-quality jobs at home.

David Fabian is the national co-leader of EY's Private Mid-Market practice. Follow EY's Private Mid-Market practice on Twitter @EY_CAPrivateCo.

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