Commentary: Missouri Should Consider the Canadian Market First


By Larry Dill


The United States shares more than the longest border—a whopping, unfortified 5,525 miles—with Canada. The United States and Canada also share a common language and heritage and similar consumer tastes and preferences.

Canada is Missouri’s number one trading partner for a number of reasons: close proximity, no barrier oceans to cross, excellent highway and rail systems on both sides of the border, the same time zones, and strong commonality in markets. Missouri firms considering exporting would do well to consider the Canadian market.

Dilll headshot

Larry Dill is the director of the International Trade Center at the University of Missouri

Many Missouri firms have already discovered this. Missouri export sales soared to $14.1 billion in 2014, the second-highest amount on record, according to Governor Jay Nixon’s office. Nixon has signed trade agreements with three Canadian provinces so far: mineral-rich Alberta, population-rich Ontario, and Quebec.

Canada was the number one country for Missouri exports, at more than $4.7 billion in 2014, according to US Census data. Mexico was number two, with about $2.3 billion, followed by China at $872 million, Japan at $611 million, and South Korea at $474 million.

The percentage increase in dollar amounts tells an even more compelling story: From 2013 to 2014, Missouri exports to Canada grew more than 19 percent. Exports to Mexico grew more than 17 percent. However to China, exports grew by less than three percent.

The goal of the International Trade Center, which I direct at the University of Missouri, is to promote economic development and aid in the international decision-making of Missouri businesses while providing MU students, tomorrow’s business leaders, opportunities for experiential learning. The highly skilled center staff, many of whom are bilingual, have forged strong partnerships to help create export plans, secure export funding, manage logistics, and capitalize on networking opportunities.

International Trade Center partners include the US Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration export programs, the Missouri Department of Economic Development Office of International Trade and Investment, Missouri Department of Agriculture, the World Trade Centers in Kansas City and St. Louis, trade officials from different nations, and many other entities.

The center’s student internship program, established in 2014, provides international business students hands-on learning in advanced international market research while providing Missouri businesses actionable information about potential overseas markets. The center leverages the time and talent of these students, MU faculty, and cutting-edge trade databases to evaluate specific market opportunities or industry trends that a business can then act upon in a timely, meaningful, and affordable way.

Here is just one testimonial:

“This program has helped my company tremendously. From assisting with market expansion activities, facilitating background checks, and helping us verify documentation and compliance requirements, I could not have asked for a better team to help me with the international side of things. Not only has the ITC provided excellent customer service, but their research and findings have proven extremely useful and have helped increase our sales internationally.”
—Marcus Solomon, director of sales and operations at BeWell Health LLC in Columbia.

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