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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The United States has replaced Asia in the minds of Canadian exporters as their riskiest market, a survey showed on Thursday, but a growing number of exporters see trade opportunities improving despite the global recession.
The state-run Export Development Corp said overall export confidence fell by 5 percentage points over the past 18 months to its lowest level since the agency started the survey in 2000.
Canadian exports -- almost 80 percent of which are traditionally sold to the United States -- are expected to slide 5.1 percent this year, the EDC said.
A deep U.S. recession is to blame for the increased gloom. The percentage of exporters who identified the United States as their riskiest market rose to 33 percent from 25 percent last spring.
"This survey saw the U.S. overtake Asia as the perceived riskiest market for the first time," it reported.
Sixty-two percent expected their international sales to stay the same or worsen.
Exporters that have been busy carving new niches in emerging economies with better growth prospects than the major industrialized economies were more upbeat about their chances of growing during the downturn, the survey found.
"Times may be tough, but the global economy is not devoid of opportunities," the EDC said.
The number of exporters who said that international trade opportunities would improve rose to 33 percent from 28 percent six months earlier. The number who said they would worsen rose to 38 percent from 23 percent.
Policymakers have long grappled with the need for Canadian exporters to diversify their sales beyond North America and it appears the global financial crisis has finally propelled them in that direction.
"These results may suggest that the growing number of Canadian exporters that have expanded into nontraditional markets in the past two years think that those opportunities will help to shore up near-term activity," the EDC said.
Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Peter Galloway