Ottawa invests $3.75m into Trade Accelerator, Export Navigator programs in B.C.

Ottawa is investing a combined $3.75 million in a pair of programs aimed at boosting international exports and trade from small businesses based in B.C., officials said today.

The funding for the two programs - $1.5 million in the Trade Accelerator Program at World Trade Centre Vancouver and $2.25 million (over three years) for the province’s Export Navigator initiative - were announced by federal Small Business and Export Promotion Minister Mary Ng in Vancouver.

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Ng noted the funding for the separate programs are two branches of the same overall approach Ottawa would like to take in pushing B.C. businesses towards new global markets. The announcement comes as Canada is facing increasing trade difficulties with China while grappling with a fiercely protectionist regime in Washington under U.S. President Donald Trump.

“As the minister responsible for small business and export promotion, it is my job to help Canadian companies start up, scale up and access new markets,” Ng said. “When small businesses export, they become more productive, they grow, and they scale at higher rates. They take on new challenges, they develop the lessons learned, they invest more in research and development, and they - most importantly - they create great Canadian jobs.”

Currently, only about 12 per cent of Canadian small businesses are involved in exports - something that Ottawa would like to change given Canada’s 14 free-trade agreements covering markets with a combined population of 1.5 billion.

Statistics estimate as many as one in five B.C. jobs are tied to exports.

The Trade Accelerator Program has been delivered in B.C. since 2017 by World Trade Centre Vancouver partially due to a $2.5-million partnership with the B.C. provincial government. The program provides support services like strategic planning and mentorship initiatives to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow through the development of an export plan.

Tuesday’s announced federal funding of $1.5 million will also be supported by the province and the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, and officials say the Trade Accelerator has already helped 140 companies reach markets like Great Britain, The Philippines and Hong Kong in the last year.

Meanwhile, the Export Navigator initiative that is scheduled to receive $2.25 million from Ottawa will simultaneously be funded by the provincial government to the amount of $2 million over the next two years. That program - which will become a full-fledged initiative after being a pilot project for the past number of years - will hope to use the new funding to hire additional export advisors specifically to aid rural business owners, especially those who are women, youth or of indigenous backgrounds.

“The prospect of growing beyond a local or regional market and into an international market can be very daunting if you haven’t done it before,” said B.C. Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston. “This type of program provides the kind of individual counselling and help that really does make for many, many successful expansions of B.C. businesses.”

The province estimates the Export Navigator has assisted 317 companies in B.C. so far.

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