Canadian manufacturers find new markets to replace U.S

Wed Aug 5, 2009 12:05pm EDT
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The global economic crisis may be the best thing that ever happened to Canadian businessman Lorne Janes.

Sales in his top market, the United States, disappeared almost overnight, forcing him to seek new buyers for his machinery to make marble and granite countertops for homes, hotels and restaurants.

"We closed down the U.S. office and training center ... It's probably one of the better things we've done. We're doing better," he said from his Paris, Newfoundland headquarters.

With inquiries coming in from Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt and Vietnam, business is thriving and Janes said he saw no need to reenter the U.S. market until the economy there rebounded.

Canada, with its small domestic market and vast resource base has long been heavily dependent on exports to its giant neighbor to the south.

Some 87 percent of all Canadian exports went to the United States in 2000. Last year, that figure dropped to 78 percent and the May 2009 figure was 71 percent.

Instead, exporters are focusing on the Persian Gulf, still experiencing a construction boom, or India for telecoms and manufacturing. Kazakhstan, with vast tracts of unused arable land, is fertile ground for farm equipment manufacturers.

"There's nothing that gets the juices flowing more than a good old-fashioned crisis, and we've got two years under our belt right now where we've seen significant diversification," said Peter Hall, chief economist at Canada's export credit agency, Export Development Canada.   Continued...