Embrace innovation to succeed in global trade

October 25, 2017     / / /

By MELISSA GORDONOMAR ALLAM

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 12:00 AM

For the last 21 months, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his team have been building Canada’s credibility around the world. Canada is working hard to perfect the art of influence by continuing to pursue a strong market-opening trade agenda. The country earned a lot of respect and global attention for concluding the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), Canada’s most comprehensive free trade agreement with the world’s largest trading bloc, the European Union.

Moreover, Canada is headed for stronger economic growth, with GDP expected to grow at 2.5 per cent  in 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund . If solid gains continue, the Canadian economy is set to outpace the U.S. and lead Group of Seven countries.

Nevertheless, there’s always room for improvement for Canada to maintain its power and influence. To stay ahead of the curve and embrace innovation, there are a number of areas that can be addressed.

To meet the changing global market reality, Canada needs a comprehensive international export and investment strategy to show the world that Canadians are leaders in trade liberalization. Old strategies and quick wins no longer plot a predictable path forward. The context is shifting. Understanding that shift is essential to managing Canada’s reputation, building the country’s brand, and driving Canadian companies to succeed in global markets.

While diversification and risk-taking aren’t in Canadian companies’ DNA, they are slowly getting the message that they need to look beyond the United States. Some companies are looking to new export markets. However, the majority of them are not taking advantage of this opportunity.

Many Canadian companies aren’t equipped to go global, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises that are likely to face a long and challenging road before realizing success. A recent study of Canadian business owners, C-suite executives, and senior managers, reported on by Canadian Business magazine, highlighted that “when it came to businesses thinking about taking the plunge internationally, 46 per cent felt they didn’t have the insights needed to identify markets for expansion, 63 per cent said they didn’t know the steps required, and 24 per cent didn’t even know where to start.”

A “Team Canada” roadmap to build momentum for the government’s new foreign policy vision is needed. It must help Canadian companies to traverse global markets and help define where the Canadian government can deliver added value, thereby creating growth and jobs.

The key is a client-focused, client-informed public sector that provides export promotion and foreign investment services that help Canadian businesses move forward.

This will ensure more effective organization and coordination of the existing efforts, using resources optimally to create value and impact for Canadian companies.

Global trade is rapidly changing and becoming more connected. The race towards the digitization of government has already begun worldwide. With technology evolving so quickly, international commerce doesn’t have to be so complicated. Governments and companies can harness technology and open business networks to become more agile in a world where global trade is constantly at risk. It’s up to governments to embrace leading-edge technology to advance themselves at a global scale and connect to other governmental and commercial supply chains worldwide.

For government to boldly push Canada’s trade agenda, it is important to adopt and adapt business platforms that enable foreign buyers and Canadian sellers and partners to easily connect and transact digitally in public, private, and semi-private global marketplaces.

Canada needs to embrace global supply-chain and procurement opportunities so that companies can competitively buy and sell more effectively in the global marketplace.

Banks and financial institutions around the world like American Express, Santander Bank, Société Générale, and HSBC see the opportunity to service trading partners. They have invested heavily in creating collaborative business platforms to support global supply chains. These tools help buyers and suppliers transform the way they connect, transact, and collaborate. And they help to create value at each point of the international-trade supply chain, which allows for greater return on investment for all.

Technology is no longer a nice-to-have bonus in the operation of global business. It’s essential to adapt and adopt or get left behind.

Omar Allam is CEO and founder of Allam Advisory Group, a global trade and commercial diplomacy consulting firm. Melissa Gordon is senior vice-president and general manager of enterprise platform for Tradeshift, a San Francisco-based global startup with 1.5 million businesses connected on its network.

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