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NDTO News Article

State exports to Canada continue growth trend

North Dakota’s neighbors to the north are known to spend much of their disposable income in the state’s restaurants, retail shops and hotels.

But Canadians also are large consumers of North Dakota’s export goods.

In fact, Canada is North Dakota’s largest export growth market, in dollar terms, and their favor for North Dakota goods continues to grow, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports.

Nearly half of North Dakota’s exports are sent to Canada. The state’s exports to Canada totaled $480 million in 2004, an increase of $147 million since 2000, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s most recent statistics.

That’s why state and federal export officials are encouraging North Dakota companies that are interested in expanding into the global marketplace to look north.

“For companies with a strong market for their products in Canada, exporting there can be a rewarding introduction into the global marketplace,” said Susan Geib, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office, a private-public partnership dedicated to expanding the state’s export volume.

Similarities between the United States and Canada eliminate many of the export complexities that can be found in other regions of the world, said Heather Andrea Ranck, a Fargo-based international trade specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service.

The two countries share similar cultures, geographic proximity, a high standard of living and trade-supportive governments. Like the United States, Canada has a highly developed transportation infrastructure, stable financial markets, efficient marketing channels and few restrictions on the movement of funds.

Although they are similar in many ways, it’s important for exporters to understand the differences between the U.S. and Canadian markets, Ranck told about 30 company representatives who attended an export seminar held in conjunction with Marketplace for Entrepreneurs. The two-day conference was held Jan. 18 at the Fargodome.

Different labeling restrictions, labor laws and accounting issues can come into play for U.S. exporters, Ranck said. “There are clear regional differences as well,” Ranck said. “You can’t just focus on one city and think that you’re going to penetrate the entire Canadian market.”

Working with reliable Canadian distributors and establishing a Canadian presence can help companies overcome regional differences and gain market credibility, she said.

The North Dakota Trade Office and U.S. Commercial Service are helping many North Dakota companies expand into Canada where the vast majority of U.S. products enter duty free.

Together, the Trade Office and Commercial Service offer a variety of services including market-entry research and planning, product research and export assistance, assistance, trade mission management and assistance in finding qualified, well-suited distribution partners.

Tom Kenville, president of the West Fargo companies Mid-America Aviation and Roll-a-Ramp, said the Commercial Service and Trade Office were instrumental in helping him find qualified distributors in Canada.