In the last decade, Canada’s share of the world export market has slipped from about 4.5 percent to about 2.5 percent, and our share of the export market for manufactured goods has been cut in half. Even more revealing, our export performance has been the second worst in the G-20.

Why have we done so badly?

There are two reinforcing factors — structure and competitiveness.

Two-thirds of this under-performance reflects who we trade with. Almost 85 percent of our exports go to slow-growing advanced economies — 74 percent to the United States alone — and only 9 percent to fast growing emerging-market economies. Compared with our peers, Canada’s exposure to emerging markets is low when measured as a share of exports.

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The other third reflects declining competitiveness. This is manifest in our most important trading relationship, where we have lost considerable market share. From 2000 to 2011, China increased its share of US imports from 8 to 18 percent, surpassing Canada as the largest exporter to the United States. Over the same period, Canada’s share of US imports fell from almost 20 percent to less than 15 percent. Moreover, while the large increase in China’s share is affecting other countries, a number of countries, notably Mexico and Germany, have fared much better than Canada.

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Tiff Macklem
Tiff Macklem is the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and the chair of Ontario’s Panel for Economic Growth and Prosperity.  

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