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Competing Globally: Canada’s Hidden Success Stories

Posted May 29, 2014

Canada’s overall trade growth in recent years has been less than stellar in sectors other than primary products, but a new Conference Board of Canada report reveals some hidden success stories and the factors behind them.
“The common perception is that Canada only does well at exporting natural resources. Very few people think of Canada as being a global player in the cosmetics industry or being competitive at manufacturing and exporting high-tech equipment or chemicals,” said Kristelle Audet, Economist, Canadian Industrial Outlook. “However, they are among some of Canada’s hidden export success stories - it comes down to creating innovative products for niche markets.”


  • Beyond primary products, Canada’s export success in markets other than United States rests on the shoulders of a small number of companies.
  • A key factor in achieving global success is the ability to develop and sell innovative products for niche markets.
  • Canada is already a world-class exporter of cosmetics, pet food, photonic devices, synthetic rubber and inorganic chemicals.

The report, Canada’s Hidden Success Stories: Competing Globally, identifies five little-known products from the non-primary sector for which Canada is globally competitive and assesses the factors behind their success.

Although the five globally competitive products identified in the report are diverse, they share some important similarities. For each of the five categories examined, successful sales to countries other than United States was due to a small number of companies. These companies generally built their success on one or more of the following factors:

  • Proximity to key suppliers or customers
  • Benefiting from the presence of an industry cluster
  • Ability to develop and market innovative products and establish an early presence in fast-growth markets

The report was published by the Conference Board’s Global Commerce Centre. The Centre provides evidence-based tools to help companies and governments respond successfully to the trends reshaping the global business environment.