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Exporting in the time of COVID-19

Words of wisdom | Jul 21, 2020

Since the beginning of spring 2020, major changes have shaken up practically every industry. COVID-19 has changed our habits, limited our travel opportunities and even altered our consumption patterns, all of which entails serious consequences for companies. In this article, we attempt to analyze the specific impacts of the pandemic on Québec exporters. 

A Favourable Context for Some Stakeholders

At first glance, it would be easy to imagine that the unexpected arrival of the coronavirus has not been beneficial for any entrepreneurs. However, upon closer inspection, certain industries have found that the new context, and the demand created by the pandemic, is extremely favourable. Obviously, the suppliers of medical products and services are at the top of the list, but there has also been significant growth in exports among food processing and retail sales companies, and of course, with the prevalence of teleworking, we have seen a marked increase in demand for ICT products and services. Unfortunately, other industries have been hit much harder, including the tourism and aerospace sectors.

Being Adaptable

Regardless of the extent to which your industry has been impacted by the pandemic, all you can do is continue to pursue business development outside of Québec, which is much easier if you are willing and able to adapt and innovate. First off, since travel and business development activities have been severely curtailed by flight restrictions, the Market Development Directors at PME MTL recommend that their clients develop the competencies of e-sales professionals or outsource certain marketing activities to partners who are already on the ground in their various export markets. Sub-contracting is a useful marketing tool when physical distance is problematic, as is the case today. 

Québec companies in all industries are also interested in developing their digital strategy. The province has fallen somewhat behind in this area compared to other industrialized countries, but it’s not too late to catch up. Now is the time to redouble our efforts and internationalize our companies. This strategy may involve social media, updating your website, broadcasting webinars or using Shopify or other platforms. Opportunities abound, and Québec entrepreneurs should undertake serious reflection and get their heads in the game in 2020. 

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Thanks to the trade agreements that have been signed in recent years, Canadians have access to many opportunities on international markets. With the CUSMA soon to enter in to effect in North America, along with the CETA, which gives us direct access to the European market, and the CPTPP, which opens up the Pacific market, Québec exporters are in an enviable position in terms of expanding their offer around the globe. The atmosphere of tension that pervades the trade relationship between the United States and China may also prove beneficial to Canadians, because our neighbours to the South are no doubt seeking to replace a good number of their Chinese suppliers.

In addition, the subsidies that are open to Québec exporters are nothing to sneeze at. They are still available, and have even been enhanced, taking into account the new reality, especially with respect to the digital strategy and the need for rapid processing of applications. The Market Development team at PME MTL offers coaching services for companies in connection with these subsidies, and helps to optimize the structuring of applications. Our experts can provide exporters with support in terms of reflection, revision and tooling for their remote international business development plan (market studies, entry strategies, identification of prospects and international tactical planning).

There is no question that COVID-19 represents a major challenge for many of us, but all is definitely not lost! By opening ourselves up to change and innovation, even in the face of limited resources, adversity can sometimes lead us to surprising opportunities. With a solid dose of confidence and hard work (and maybe a bit of help from the right experts), we are betting that a number of Québec exporters will soon be shining on the international stage, pandemic or not.


This article was written with the help of Ada Panduro, Director of Market Development at PME MTL.

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