THIRD REPORT OF THE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE
THE CANADIAN TRADE COMMISSIONER SERVICE
The Government of Canada is pleased to respond to the Third Report of the House of Commons
Standing Committee on International Trade entitled “The Canadian Trade
Commissioner Service.” The Government shares the Committee’s view that the
Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) offers services that are of high quality,
tailored to the needs of Canadian businesses and particularly vital for small
and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs have been at the forefront of firms
entering new markets. Indeed, the share of every regional market held by
Canadian SMEs has increased, and, in Asia, SMEs accounted for nearly half of
Canadian export sales in 2009.
As noted in the Committee’s report, the Government has a role to play in supporting Canadian
companies as they advance their international commercial strategies. A
peer-reviewed study conducted by the Office of the Chief Economist of Foreign
Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) demonstrated that every $1 spent
on the TCS results in $27 in increased exports. The same study showed that
exporters who received TCS assistance exported, on average, 18 percent more
than comparable exporters who did not receive TCS assistance. Moreover, the
TCS has been effective in helping firms diversify into new markets and has a
positive impact on export product diversification. TCS clients export to 36 percent
more markets than non-clients. The business case for trade commissioners
around the world is stronger than ever.
The TCS helps companies effectively navigate the complexities of international markets. With
an extensive network of offices abroad, TCS trade commissioners have been successful
in gaining market intelligence and insight, and uncovering opportunities for
Canadian companies. They have hands-on knowledge that comes from helping
thousands of companies each year to tackle concrete problems and pursue
opportunities in foreign markets.
The TCS covers the full spectrum of international trade activities – whether a client is
interested in exporting, investing abroad, attracting investment or developing
innovation and research and development partnerships.
Since the launch of the Global Commerce Strategy (the international implementation of Advantage
Canada, the broader national competitiveness strategy), the TCS has
expanded its footprint in emerging markets. The TCS has also aligned its
activities with client needs by working more closely with the private sector in
recent years. Private sector representatives sit on TCS sector advisory
boards, providing advice on sector-specific strategies in priority markets and advising
on the prioritization of business development projects carried out by trade
commissioners in Canada and abroad. Furthermore, additional resources have
been provided to enhance Canada’s ability to attract foreign investment in
proactive sectors and create jobs for Canadians. New initiatives have been
introduced to connect Canadian companies and researchers to international
science and technology networks in order to promote innovation and
commercialization of new Canadian technologies.
An important opportunity for making further improvements to the TCS was contained in Budget
2012, which calls for intensifying Canada’s pursuit of new and deeper
international trade and investment relationships, including refreshing the
Global Commerce Strategy. An updated Global Commerce Strategy will align Canada’s trade and investment objectives with priority markets with an eye to ensuring that Canada is branded to its greatest advantage within each of those markets.
The Government has carefully reviewed the recommendations in the Standing Committee’s report and
welcomes the opportunity to respond to each recommendation individually.
Recommendation 1: The Trade Commissioner Service ensure greater consistency of service across
The Government accepts this recommendation.
The TCS offers four key services to clients: preparation for international markets, market
potential assessment, qualified contacts and problem solving. TCS service
standards and guidelines exist and must be followed by all trade commissioners.
For example, an acknowledgement of or response to a client should be sent by
the trade commissioner in a timely manner. This being said, client feedback
has pointed to some inconsistency in the application of these service standards
In order to improve governance, accountability and consistency of service, DFAIT created the
International Commerce Coordination Board (ICCB) in late 2008. Comprising
senior management, the ICCB reviews and provides direction on strategic and
operational issues pertaining to DFAIT’s international commerce mandate. A
transactional client survey was established in 2010 to provide management,
including managers at posts, with actionable client feedback on the consistency
and quality of service delivered. Survey results show that client satisfaction
increased significantly from 66 percent in 2008-2010 to 80 percent in
2011-2012, reflecting the commitment of the TCS to continuous improvement.
Building on these improvements, and in order to ensure greater consistency of service delivery, a
client service strategy has recently been developed to continue improving
client satisfaction and client success abroad and to facilitate the entry of
more Canadian clients, particularly SMEs, into international commerce. The
proposed strategy was presented to and endorsed by the Small and Medium-Sized
Enterprises Advisory Board during their last meeting. In tandem with the
implementation of the client service strategy, elements will be focused on
learning and professional development to ensure that managers and trade commissioners
are able to improve client satisfaction and success rates. A greater emphasis
on service standards and guidelines will be included in training initiatives to
re-enforce greater consistency of services across offices.
Recommendation 2: The Trade Commissioner Service continue to build capacity in emerging markets where
the potential for growth in Canadian trade is high.
The Government accepts this recommendation.
As part of ongoing efforts to implement Canada's Global Commerce Strategy, the TCS has identified
13 priority markets around the world where Canadian opportunities and interests
have the greatest potential for growth. Fifteen new offices in Brazil, China, India, Mongolia, Qatar and Turkey have been opened in recent years to promote trade, investment and innovation with these fast-growing markets and lay the
foundation for tomorrow's jobs and prosperity. These investments are already
reaping results. Over the past four years, the TCS has served a growing number
of new-to-market clients, especially in priority emerging markets such as Brazil (1,032), China (2,634) and India (881). Moreover, the total number of TCS services
delivered in these three markets over the past four years has grown by 79, 92
and 311 percent respectively.
The TCS continues to
strengthen capacity in emerging markets through the development and
implementation of its sector strategies. Sector advisory boards – which
include representatives of leading companies, other government departments,
agencies and crown corporations such as Industry Canada and Export Development
Canada – are providing information on Canadian capabilities. The boards also
advise on strategies for implementation by trade commissioners in the field,
ensuring that high-growth markets receive the attention they deserve.
Emerging markets are
also included as priority markets for investment attraction, as well as in the
renewed International Science & Technology Partnerships Program. This program promotes
international collaborative research and development with emerging markets such
as Brazil, China and India with the objective of facilitating commercialization
of their innovations.
Resources in Canada are also focused on building capacity in emerging markets. For example, a trade
commissioner is currently embedded with the Canada-India Business Council in Toronto.
Finally, the TCS uses a number of evidence-based tools to assist in the assessment and allocation of
financial and human resources internationally. Analysis of information from various
sources is used to ensure that financial and human resources are deployed to markets with strong potential for
growth. This allows the TCS to maintain and adjust an international footprint
that is reflective of Canadian companies’ commercial interests.
Recommendation 3: The Trade Commissioner Service address the lack of corporate memory and local
knowledge resulting from the constant rotation of Canadian trade commissioners
The Government accepts this recommendation.
The Government announced in Budget 2012 its intention to extend the length of some postings. Longer
assignments overseas will help to deepen the local contact networks of
Canada-based trade commissioners, in addition to reducing the administrative
costs associated with frequent relocation.
To help increase operational efficiency, knowledge transfer and sharing, and enhance the
corporate memory of the TCS, DFAIT is also developing a multi-year Information
Management/Information Technology Strategy. The strategy will include
initiatives such as TRIO2 (an improved client relationship management system).
It will also include an internal collaboration platform for employees to
connect with each other online, share experiences, best practices and
information, and foster centres of expertise. Further, a web-based reporting
system will foster communities of interest by increasing accessibility of
reports as well as allowing trade commissioners, regardless of where they are
located, to contribute in areas in which they have expertise. Ongoing
improvements are being made to the departmental wiki. The strategy also
includes GCDocs (a new records and documents management system).
As is the case with
most foreign ministries, DFAIT will continue to rely on locally-engaged staff
who have long been recognized as playing an important role in day-to-day work.
Their knowledge of the local culture, language and physical environment, and
their local contacts and corporate memory of events through a succession of
Canada-based staff rotations, has enhanced and will continue to enhance the
capacity of the posts to achieve Canada’s overseas objectives.
Recommendation 4: The Trade Commissioner Service focus on the countries with which Canada has signed a free trade agreement in order to help Canadian exporters and investors
take advantage of the preferential treatment obtained as a result of these
The Government acknowledges this recommendation.
Under the Government's Global Commerce Strategy, Canada has prioritized its engagement with fast-growing
emerging markets, particularly in Asia and the Americas, and is pursuing an
ambitious pro-trade plan. Accordingly, the TCS has prioritized markets where
Canadian commercial activity and the demand for services by Canadian business
clients is growing the fastest, even though Canada may not have concluded free
trade agreements (FTAs) with these countries.
As set out in Budget 2012, the Government of Canada has now embarked on the most ambitious trade
negotiations agenda in its history, with 19 distinct trade negotiations
underway covering 74 countries, in addition to a similarly ambitious
negotiating agenda of foreign investment promotion and protection agreements
and air transport agreements.
Canada completed an economic complementarities study with China in May 2012 and is entering into exploratory discussions on deepening bilateral trade and economic relations. Canada is also in exploratory trade
discussions with MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and Thailand. In November 2011, Canada announced its intention to enter into
formal consultations to explore Canada’s possible participation in the
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Bilateral negotiations on a comprehensive
economic partnership agreement with Japan were launched in March 2012. Free
trade negotiations are ongoing with the European Union and India.
This approach complements Canada’s ongoing commercial engagement with existing FTA partners. The existence of FTAs
and other market access agreements informs TCS activities, including the
allocation of financial resources through both operational budgets, which
provide trade commissioners with resources for targeted business development
projects, and the Global Opportunities for Associations program, which supports
international market development activities undertaken by national
associations. Efforts are being advanced to systematize the analysis of
opportunities flowing from the completion of agreements and to provide clients
with more targeted information on resulting market opportunities.
The TCS has developed a strategic approach to trade missions for the Minister of International Trade,
the objective of which is to proactively support international business
development by Canadian companies through the Minister’s domestic and
international travels. Being strategic by effectively prioritizing, planning,
focusing, communicating, branding and following up will increase the impact of
trade missions, and better link trade promotion and trade policy objectives.
Currently included in the strategy are trade missions to Peru, Colombia, Panama and Jordan, countries with which Canada has recently signed free
A marketing strategy has been developed and implemented for the free trade agreements in the Americas and will be used as a model for future efforts to promote the benefits of upcoming
free trade agreements. In addition, sector strategies will continue to ensure
that Canadian capabilities are matched appropriately with opportunities in
priority markets. Moving forward, the trade negotiations agenda will continue
informing the selection of markets for trade missions and marketing efforts.
As for human resources allocation, evidence-based tools assist with the assessment and allocation of trade
promotion resources internationally. The process takes into consideration
government-to-government agreements, including free trade agreements, as well
as other priorities – such as Canadian client interests – to ensure support and
promotional activities in these markets.
Finally, the fundamental issues of priority markets, free trade agreement opportunities, and
other initiatives mentioned above, which touch upon the important trade and
investment development role of the TCS, will inform a refreshed Global Commerce
Strategy that the Government will release in 2013.