Canada | Small business

In uncertain times, take the risks, say trade experts

Export Development Canada webinar focuses on managing risk and growing your business in the current economic climate 

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Businesswoman writing at wall with coworkers looking on “While everybody else is running away, we are encouraging businesses to manage their risk and take a seat around the table,” says Peter Hall, EDC’s vice-president and chief economist (Getty Images/Hero Images)

In a time of heightened global uncertainty with trade wars, imposed tariffs, a slowing economy and threats of a looming recession, businesses should plow ahead, rather than bury their heads, suggests Export Development Canada (EDC).

Fall 2019 Global Export Forecast, a webinar delivered by Peter Hall, EDC’s vice-president and chief economist, drills home the importance of businesses that export staying on course and being prepared, rather than joining the risk averse, now sitting on the sidelines.

“Companies are thinking, if the big corporations are going to do that then I should do the same and that is absolutely not what they should be doing in our view,” said Hall in a recent interview with CPA Canada. “While everybody else is running away, we are encouraging businesses to manage their risk and take a seat around the table.”

UNCONVENTIONAL THINKING

EDC, Hall explained, is challenging the status quo. At a time when certain realities allude to an impending recession, including declined business investment and a steep drop in global exports, he said, there are other indicators that suggest the opposite such as steady consumer spending, continued job creation and record low unemployment rates.

“How could we have this two-speed scenario playing out in the exact opposite way that it usually does?” he questioned. “The quick and simple conclusion is that business and trade have been scared off by policy moves, not by a fundamental weakening in the economy. Growth is hanging on whether we get a resolution to this [global] friction…there is a lot riding on that.” 

WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?

What does this mean for Canada? With its track record of “well-managed” fiscal policy, in-demand commodities and balanced internal economy, Hall explained, Canada was once the place to invest, while the rest of the world dug themselves out of the last recession. The tide has now shifted, he said.

“In Canada, we have had a great ride for a number of years…lots of portfolio and real investments came onto our shores because we had a lot of our structural ducks lined up,” said Hall. “This time around, we don’t. When you throw stimulus into a balanced economy, you tend to overdo it. That’s what we have done with a rocking housing market, with consumers out spending and borrowing. Those two engines of the economy were good, but they have now run out of gas.” 

This, Hall added, means Canada is more dependent on the external global economy to keep things in check at a time when we are facing many unknowns, including the outcome of the 2020 U.S. election, U.S.-China relations, U.K and EU tensions, and what will come of Brexit. 

“The big question is, will the external economy pull us through, or is the world economy in for a bit of a drubbing when our domestic economy is a quite vulnerable?” he said. 

PRACTICALLY APPLIED

EDC’s webinar—which took place on Dec. 3—speaks to participants about managing global risk, coping with protectionist policies that impact global trade, as well as the importance of having a risk management strategy, while navigating the ebbs and flows of the economy. 

“As much as risk is rising out there, there are ways of managing that risk…we are preparing ourselves to assist companies in that risk,” said Hall. “It’s an opportunity for businesses that are in the export space to really dial up in a big way and take advantage of the great business prospects that others are leaving on the table. It’s in fact quite a rare opportunity for business.”