Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reaching out to emerging markets

Fantastic piece inthe Globe on Canada’s need to expand its economic and commercial horizons beyond the US. This has been a refrain for some time now but the writer nicely summarizes the key points. As I deal in emerging markets investments for a large US firm this topic is of particular interest to me. At conferences and in conversations, Canada is noticeable absent from the emerging markets dialog.

Canada does not have a holistic strategy on how to engage emerging markets. I use the word “holistic” because it needs to include Canada’s foreign policy and international trade interests. It seems to me that there is a separation of church and state in Canada around foreign policy and trade. In our economically interconnected world, this separation is not a sophisticated strategy. With a relatively strong banking sector, Canada has the unique opportunity to use its national balance sheet to create economic and policy linkages in the emerging markets.

Don’t forget, the emerging markets are going through a recession because the West, a main customer, is going through a recession. But there isn’t a fundamental crisis of finance in the emerging markets as there is in the West (an ironic twist of fate, one could say.) So the emerging markets remain open to do business with whoever still has capital.

Despite current challenges, Canada still has capital, but it is not seizing the opportunity to use it and expand its economic and political influence.

Some thoughts on what the writer said:
By 2050, China and India are set to be the No. 1 and No. 3 economies in the world by GDP, and together will be larger than the G7 combined.

Yes, but the US is still #2, so let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. And if we look at GDP per capita, the US will remain number 1 for a very long time.

Moreover, the emerging patterns of global trade, travel and investment are increasingly multidirectional - from China to Africa, Brazil to India and no longer guaranteed to flow through the once dominant hubs of Europe and the United States.

Great point. All Western countries, not just Canada, need to better understand this trend.

Our competitors are cued up with active strategies and we risk losing out if we do not act quickly and with focus.

The US and Europe have diverse strategies that engage the emerging markets with a combination of aid, expertise, commercial contacts, loans, equity investments, technology sharing, JVs, the list goes on and on. It involves national governments and companies together creating linkages in the emerging markets and using a portfolio of investments, loans and grants to win influence and business. Canada doesn’t seem to get this.

The structural advantage is we have a good story for the times. Canada's relative financial stability amidst crisis, our advanced resource markets, quiet excellence in many of the emerging 21st-century technology areas, from clean tech to agriculture, in addition to the advantage that comes from our diversity, make for a compelling story that, if marketed well, will find ready global audiences.


Being a destination and source of trade with India is essential - but better still, we need to be part of India's strategy for Brazil. Innovative trade and corporate strategies should be focused on building these trade triangles.

Genius.. This man for PM.

An effective diversification strategy requires focusing even greater corporate and public diplomatic resources on three key markets: Latin America, China and India.

What can I add?

To send the right signal to corporate India, Canadian business needs to take the lead and support the call for a "comprehensive economic partnership agreement" - a pathway to free trade. We should start simply by focusing on free trade in services and leave the other more contentious issue like agriculture off the table.

I agree in theory, but wonder if this will work in practice. Can Canadian businesses take the lead in building these sorts of economic partnerships? Perhaps, unfortunately, business waits too long and government must lead. That seems like a more Canadian way.

We are late to the party in these emerging markets. To jump ahead in the queue, Canada needs to get ahead of its peers with a co-ordinated public diplomacy strategy enabling us to tell a compelling 21st-century Canadian story, streamlining the cacophony of messages from our various levels of governments.

…and business communities.

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