Most Canadian companies look to the United States first when they start exporting because it is geographically close and its citizens share many of our language and cultural traits. However, the economic situation in the United States has Canadian companies looking to other markets.

From 2005 to 2010, Canadian exports to the United States decreased by 18%, from $366 billion to $299 billion. At the same time, Canadian exports to other countries increased by 42%, from $71 billion to $100 billion. While some Canadian companies felt the impact of the U.S. slowdown, others saw an opportunity to find success in alternative markets.

If your company is interested in exploring different export markets, Industry Canada's Trade Data Online can help you find the data you need to help put together your export plan. Using the “Search by Product” option you can find plenty of information to help you decide which countries to investigate.

  • Look at the total exports of your product to all countries (detailed) over the latest 10 years. This will give you a good breakdown of the countries that are currently purchasing similar products from Canadian companies. You can also see which markets are growing and which ones are declining.

    For example, if your company makes toys and games for children, you would see that there has been a sharp decline in Canadian exports to the US market in the past few years (from $431 million in 2008 to $239 million in 2010). However, other markets are growing. Canadian exports of toys and games to the UK grew from $5.9 million in 2008 to $13.8 million in 2010. There was also growth in other markets like Belgium, Australia, France, and Spain, as well as emerging markets like Brazil, Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic.

  • U.S. companies are competing with Canadians when doing business internationally. You can use Trade Data Online to get reports on U.S. exports to other countries too.

    Other than Canada, some of the major markets for U.S. exporters of toys and games are Mexico, the United Kingdom, Australia and Hong Kong. Mexico in particular could be a good target. It appears to be a growing market and is part of the NAFTA.

  • If the United States is a major target market for your company, you can get a detailed report of imports by state that shows which ones are growing. If you are looking for new distributors or planning to attend trade shows, this data can help you target certain states.

    For example, annual Canadian exports of toys and games for children to California increased by 147% from 2008 to 2010 to an annual total of $31.3 million in 2010.

You can download this type of data and more from Trade Data Online to use for your own analysis and calculations.

Looking at the trade data can be interesting and eye opening, but it is just the starting point in the development of an export plan. Once you have identified possible markets to target, the trade offices and market reports of the Trade Commissioner Service can help you learn more about the international opportunities for your company.