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A Closer Look at BC's Exports

As a small market jurisdiction, exports of both goods and services are the foundation of the BC economy. Selling goods and services to other markets provides income from external sources, which in turn enables BC households and businesses to purchase and pay for a vast array of imports. Growing BC export-capable industries is critical to raising real incomes and boosting prosperity in the long term. For this reason, government policy should ensure that the province continues to be an attractive jurisdiction in which to invest capital as well as a place where exporters can effectively compete in North American and global markets.

BC has been fortunate with respect to the development of the “export economy.” Because of the province’s strong resource-orientation, merchandise exports tend to be cyclical, but over-time they have trended higher. At the same time, the province has become much more active in selling services to outside markets. This issue of Policy Perspectives takes a closer look at BC’s exports. What follows is largely descriptive, outlining the goods and services that BC exports, our principal export markets, and how we compare with other provinces.

Highlights

  • Exports are the foundation of small open economies like BC and play an outsized role in increasing prosperity over the medium-term.
  • BC’s export base has become more diversified and resilient during the last two decades.
  • Resources and related products still dominate BC’s international merchandise exports, but impressive growth in the value and range of non-resource export has led to a more balanced and stable export picture.
  • Shipping more goods to China has been a key factor in the ongoing diversification of BC’s export markets.
  • The province’s biggest export gains, in percentage terms, have been in services, especially services sold to customers in other provinces.
  • Contrary to widely held perceptions, Ontario and Quebec have developed diversified industrial export bases, not dissimilar to BC.
  • Relative to the size of the economy, the export sector in BC is smaller than in most other provinces.  The need to strengthen and grow the export base is a basic lens that should guide and inform BC government policy.

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