Among the G7 countries, Canada is the most connected when it comes to trade. With the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada has direct trade ties to Europe, Asia and the rest of North America.
While as a country Canada has valuable links to international opportunities, business owners in underrepresented groups still face significant barriers to global markets, particularly our youth, women, LGBTQ2, and Indigenous and business owners.
It takes targeted action to address the underrepresentation of these and other groups in trade, and we are glad to see the tide is starting to turn. On April 22, the Honourable François-Phillippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade, announced three landmark ministerial-led trade missions to recognize and bolster under-represented groups in trade. This year, Canada will lead the first-ever LGBTQ2 mission, the first mission devoted to Indigenous business owners and a ministerial-led mission for women entrepreneurs.
With these and other targeted initiatives, we can move the needle in the right direction to leverage Canada’s diversity as its competitive advantage – both at home and on the world stage.
Through our Start-up Program, Futurpreneur Canada has supported more than 10,000 youth aged 18-39 in launching businesses across the country. As a result, we know firsthand that youth face more barriers to launching and growing their businesses than their adult counterparts, requiring tailored support and access to collateral-free financing to be successful.
Besides our work at home in Canada, we are excited to also be doing our part to help youth access international opportunities and networks as a member of the G20 Young Entrepreneur’s Alliance (G20 YEA). Each year, we bring a delegation of growth-oriented Canadian young entrepreneurs overseas to develop their business interests and connections, including this year’s delegation of 30 young business owners from across the country headed to Buenos Aires, Argentina. By providing these entrepreneurs with an opportunity to explore new markets while influencing entrepreneurship policy, the G20 YEA is opening doors for young business owners around the world.
We know some young business owners face more challenges than others. For example, despite the progress young women in business have made, they still face unique obstacles when attempting to access global markets. According to research from Export Development Canada (EDC), while 13.5 to 16 per cent of Canadian small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are owned by women, only 7.5 per cent of them export their products or services. Women’s businesses are less commonly found in the science and tech sectors that form the economic strategy tables. They are also more prone to be rejected or underfinanced when they seek debt and equity financing in order to grow and become ready for export.
Considering these and other factors, it is vital for government and other partners to create international opportunities for women entrepreneurs, particularly for our young female entrepreneurs that are just getting started. Through the Government of Canada’s Business Women in International Trade program, we have seen more young women access the tools they need to go global over the past two decades. At Futurpreneur, we’re committed to doing our part too. Over 40% of the businesses we are bringing overseas for the 2018 G20 YEA are women-led.
In addition to women-owned businesses, we also know that many LGBTQ2 young business owners face discrimination in their everyday lives, limiting their ability to access, contribute to or benefit from the formal economy and trading opportunities. There are about 140,000 LGBT‐owned businesses in Canada, and for too long, they have been under-represented in procurement and trade opportunities, both domestically and abroad.
Young Indigenous business-owners face their own set of unique barriers when planning for international growth. For instance, Indigenous businesses based in remote communities are often limited in their access to resources, goods and services that support their business, which can directly hinder their development. Additionally, social barriers such as education and training, racial discrimination and lack of infrastructure leave many Indigenous entrepreneurs trailing behind.
The upcoming Government of Canada-led trade missions will help create a level playing field for women, LGTBQ2 and Indigenous-owned businesses. Not only will the missions help raise awareness, visibility and credibility of Canadian businesses owned by these groups, they will give them better access to the global trade opportunities and connections they need. By bringing together delegations of business owners facing the same unique challenges, we can also facilitate their access to external resources and encourage them to be champions to help others access support once they return home.
These kinds of opportunities don’t exist unless we create them. And as a country, we cannot compete in the global innovation race without harnessing the enormous potential of our underrepresented groups. We want to leverage all of Canada’s talent and potential, and when we remove barriers to accessing international markets, we can see more entrepreneurs succeed and grow the Canadian economy.
At Futurpreneur Canada, we understand how difficult it can be for youth and other underrepresented groups to start-up and grow their businesses at home. When it comes to taking the next step into international markets, government and other sectors have begun to build bridges. Let’s continue to help more people walk across.