As posted on LinkedIn.

From forestry to AI technology, Canada has plenty of large industries driving our success. But when it comes to our economic growth and our ability to compete on the global stage, we often miss the opportunity to think small.  

Small businesses are vital to this country’s economy. Among the over one million employer businesses in Canada, 98 per cent are ones with fewer than 100 employees (Source: BDC) , making small businesses the backbone of our economy.

At the same time, there’s a huge opportunity at these small business’ fingertips, waiting to be capitalized on: international trade. 

Each year, FedEx dives into data looking at how U.S. businesses feel about international trade. This year, we expanded our research and conducted a study taking the pulse of Canadian businesses on these same topics. The FedEx Express Canada Trade Index results show clearly that Canadian small businesses know that international trade is closely linked to economic improvement. The majority – 83 per cent – agree that boosting trade between Canada and other countries will improve the economy overall. More than half also say that increasing trade with the United States and other countries would help their own businesses. 

They’re also supporters of trade agreements, with nine out of 10 supporting NAFTA and 86 per cent supporting CUSMA (the Canada United States Mexico Agreement).

At the same time, these economic drivers are facing challenges to playing a bigger role in enhancing trade.

Still, many Canadian small businesses are still focused on local transactions. Just 37 per cent of Canadian small businesses currently sell goods online and, according to Global Affairs Canada’s annual publication on trade and economic performance, only 12 per cent export goods. Even though they acknowledge the benefits of trade, there’s clearly a missed opportunity for small businesses to tap into the digital economy and grow beyond our borders.

So, what’s stopping it from happening?

For many, the answer lies in fees and tariffs. In fact, Eighty-one percent of entrepreneurs and small business owners who are currently exporting or importing goods say that fees and tariffs have had an impact on their business growth.   

It’s because of this that FedEx is committed to supporting trade policies that benefit these businesses. In our increasingly global world – with 99.5% of the world’s population outside Canada, these small businesses need more opportunity to reach their international customers. Trade agreements benefit Canadian SMEs through increasing access to new markets, streamlining customs processes, and increasing international regulatory cooperation. FedEx Express Canada plays a critical role in enabling these businesses to expand internationally by helping to build nimble supply chains and delivering local products and services to global customers around the world. 

For our part, trade is our business. Expanding it is essential not only to our business, but also to the growth of others in Canada and ultimately, our economy. It’s why we’re working on addressing trade barriers – whether it be through working with the Canada Border Services Agency working groups and contributing to the Beyond the Borders strategy or, working with our customers to optimize route planning, reduce storage time, and improve distribution networks, FedEx empowers Canadian businesses to tap into global trade more efficiently and effectively.

Our role is to make business quicker and more efficient for our customers, regardless of where their businesses are based or where they want to send their goods. 

Having small businesses as the backbone of our economy is an extraordinary thing – proof that Canada is where entrepreneurs can thrive. But to keep it that way in our evolving digital-first world of borderless commerce, every business must champion trade.