Exporting to world markets

Table of contents

Thinking about exporting
Choosing your target market
International agreements and shipping logistics
Authentication and certification of documents
Export training
Export financing
Sources of export assistance
Related reading


Exporting is the sale of goods or services from Canada to any other country. The global marketplace presents a great opportunity to sell your products and services internationally. This guide will provide you with resources to help you learn about foreign markets and make it easier for you to get your products to market.

Thinking about exporting

Are you thinking of selling to international clients? The key to success, just as with any other business activity, is to know your market. When you are preparing to export there are several points to consider:

Do you have:

  • The time and staff resources?
  • Enough production capacity?
  • The necessary cash flow?
  • Competitively priced services or products?
  • The necessary cultural and language skills?
  • A reliable distribution network?

Do you know:

  • The market readiness of your product or service?
  • Your target market and competitors?
  • Where your business fits in the new market?
  • Foreign regulations and tariffs?
  • Transportation and shipping costs?

Before taking your business abroad, you will also need to learn the basics and find out if your business is export ready. Below you will find some tools and guides to help you.

Step-by-step guide to exporting - Global Affairs Canada

Get a better understanding of the exporting process from the Trade Commissioners Service's exporting guide. The guide is designed to provide you with practical information to help you assess your export capabilities. It also steers you through the process of planning and executing your first exporting venture.

Read online:
Step-by-step guide to exporting

Global Affairs Canada also has a guide specifically for those who would like to start exporting to the European Union (EU).

Read online:
Exporting to the EU – A guide for Canadian business

Guide to exporting commercial goods from Canada - Canada Border Services Agency

Your small or medium-sized business can get an overview of the process for exporting goods from Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency's guide provides information on exporting in a straightforward, step-by-step format.

Read online:
Exporting commercial goods

Getting ready to export

Get information on the fundamentals of export success and access resources available to Ontario businesses entering foreign markets.

Read online:
Getting ready to export


Access Canada's official source of news and advice on trade, events, export and investment opportunities around the world. Entrepreneurs who want to learn about competing, partnering and prospering in the global marketplace can subscribe to this e-magazine.

Read online:

Choosing your target market

Market research is an essential part of export business planning. It is important to obtain information about potential export markets and develop an export marketing plan.

You can start by researching:

  • Demographics
  • Economic profiles
  • Geography
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Political and legal aspects
  • Trade practices and customs
  • Culture and consumer patterns
  • Transportation and communication systems
  • Risk assessment
  • Currency/inflation rates

When you have done the research on these and other issues that may have an impact on your product or service, you can make an informed decision about exporting.

Read online:
Are you ready to go global?

The following resources can help you research and identify export markets:

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Advisory Services

You can get customized advisory services for the complex challenges you face everyday as a Canadian entrepreneur, including assistance with market research, export planning and globalization.

Contact the BDC:
BDC advisory services

Exporting intellectual property

Intellectual properties are creative ideas or designs that have commercial value. Get more information on how to protect your intellectual property when you export it to a foreign market.

Read online:
An Introduction to Intellectual Property (IP)
Protect IP outside Canada
Intellectual Property for Business

Trade data and statistics

You can take advantage of Statistics Canada's detailed trade data. The information is available online for anyone whose business depends on importing or exporting (costs are applicable).

Use online:
International trade

Trade data online

Access detailed information on Canadian and U.S. imports, exports and trade balances in terms of dollars or percentages, based on data from Statistics Canada and the U.S. Census Bureau. Information for over 200 countries is available.

Use online:
Trade data online

Agri-food trade services for Canadian exporters

Get help accessing markets and exporting your agricultural, fish or seafood products to foreign markets, through market information, trade counselling and a variety of export support activities.

Use online:
International trade of agri-food products

Export Development Canada (EDC) country information

Find information on political and economic developments in a variety of countries around the world.

Use online:
Country information

CIA World Factbook

You can find basic intelligence on countries through the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) World Factbook. Country profiles highlight the country's background, geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military and transnational issues.

Use online:
CIA World Factbook

Writing an export plan

Businesses that have identified a specific product or service to export and targeted a particular geographic market should ensure that they have a well developed export business plan.

Read online:
7 key questions your export plan should answer


There are various regulations that apply to exporting goods from Canada to other parts of the world.

Legal questions

Legal questions

You can contact Pro Bono Ontario’s free legal advice hotline to enquire about getting help with your everyday civil legal needs (no family law, immigration or criminal law). The service is generally aimed at those who cannot afford a lawyer.

Note that service is not guaranteed and you will be asked questions as part of the qualifying process, such as the amount of personal income earned by your household, your name, postal code and age range.

Contact Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline:

Read online:
Pro Bono Ontario - Free Legal Advice Hotline


You can also contact the Law Society of Ontario's Law Society Referral Service if you have legal questions of a business nature. The service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or paralegal, based on your needs.

Use online:
Law Society Referral Service

Business number - Importer/exporter account number

All Canadian businesses and individuals who are exporting on a commercial basis must obtain a business number from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Contact the CRA:
Business number

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

CBSA is the main federal agency responsible for border enforcement and customs services. It regulates the flow of persons and goods across the Canadian border and collects all applicable duties, tariffs and taxes. Through its Border Information Service, a computerized, 24-hour telephone service you can access information on various customs topics free of charge from anywhere in Canada. During regular business hours, press "3" for business information, and then press "0" to speak with an agent.

Contact CBSA:

CBSA has shared responsibility for:

Reporting exports

If your commercial shipments are valued at more than $2,000 (CDN) and are exported to a country other than the United States, you must report the export to CBSA. You can file your report currently in one of two ways:

  • Canadian Export Reporting System (CERS)
  • G7 Electronic Data Interchange Export Reporting

Read online :
Exporters' guide to reporting

Exports of prohibited and controlled goods

Find out if the product you are exporting is prohibited or controlled. Certain goods are prohibited from entering or leaving Canada or require permits, certificates, labelling or authorization from a federal department before Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will release the goods.

Read online:
Customs D memoranda
Acts and Regulations of Other Government Departments

Exporting cultural property

If you plan on exporting objects of historical, scientific and cultural significance you may require an export permit. The Canadian Cultural Property Export Control List identifies the categories of cultural property that require a permit before the object can be exported.

Read online:
Memorandum D19-4-1
Cultural property export permits

Single-use plastics rules and restrictions

Single-use plastics rules and restrictions

There are rules and restrictions for using, selling, importing and exporting single-use plastics that may apply to your business. The regulations include common items such as plastic bags, cutlery, straws and various containers. Refer to the Environment and Climate Change Canada’s website for the regulations and guidance on alternative products for your business. 

Contact Environment and Climate Change Canada:
Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations


Crossing the border with $10,000 or more?

If you are crossing the Canadian border with $10,000 or more in Canadian funds or its equivalent in any form you have to report this to Canada Border Services Agency. The same applies if you are sending this amount by courier or by mail into or out of Canada, on your own behalf or the behalf of someone else.

Read online:
Travelling with CAD$10,000 or more

Export permits

You will need an Export Permit if you are exporting to a country on the Area Control List or when the goods are on the Export Control List. The Trade Controls Bureau (TID) of Global Affairs Canada is responsible for issuing export permits and certificates and publishes brochures and Notices to Exporters that are available free on request.

Contact the Trade Controls Bureau:
Export Controls

Canadian economic sanctions

You may need certain certificates and permits if you want to export goods or services to a country or group that is subject to Canadian economic sanctions. Types of sanctions that could affect your business activities can include: 

  • Asset freezes
  • Arms and related materials embargos
  • Export and import restrictions
  • Financial transaction prohibitions
  • Technical data, training or other technical assistance prohibitions

These measures can be in addition to those in place under Export and Import Controls.

Read online:
Canadian economic sanctions

Export controls on-line (NEXCOL)

NEXCOL is a user friendly web-based application where exporters can submit applications for export permits and certificates, as well as request amendments and to print selected permits in your office.

Contact NEXCOL:

Standards Council of Canada

The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) offers businesses a number of specialized standards and standards-related information products online.

Contact the SCC:
Standards Council of Canada

International agreements and shipping logistics

A large part of the exporting process involves getting your goods to their destination. This means not only arranging for the physical transport of your goods- by ship or land or air - but also completing paperwork and complying with laws and regulations set out by authorities in the target country. Below you will find information on some of the regulations that you may encounter.

Harmonized commodity description and coding system (HS)

You will need an HS number to identify your products. The number is based on an international six-digit 'root' with additional digits for different types of export reporting. The HS number allows officials around the world to apply the correct amount of duties, taxes and regulations to the products entering their country.

Searching Statistics Canada's Canadian export classification database can help you identify the HS code for your goods.

Visit the websites:
Canadian export classification
Customs tariff - harmonized commodity description and coding system (HS)

Identifying tariff and non-tariff barriers

Many countries have trade agreements with Canada that make it easier for you to export your goods. Other countries have tariffs that must be paid when goods enter their country.

It is important to identify tariff and non-tariff barriers that may apply to your product or service in a foreign market. Are there restrictions in the form of taxes, import duties or quotas? Are there trade agreements which favour the goods and services of one country over another?

Global Affairs Canada through its Tariffs and Goods Market Access Division provides information to Canadian exporters such as:

  • Tariffs, taxes, rules of origin and some entry procedures for Canadian goods being exported to foreign countries
  • Labelling information on U.S. food products such as counselling on FDA/USDA food product labelling for the United States (FDA: Food Drug Administration; USDA: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Contact Global Affairs Canada:
Trade negotiations and agreements (TNA)
Tariff information

You can also choose to have these logistical requirements handled by an experienced export broker or freight forwarder.

Read online:
How to find your BFF (best freight forwarder)
List of licensed customs brokers
Freight forwarders and customs brokers

Duty Deferral Program

There are custom programs that allow you to defer payments on goods you have imported and will be exporting, under specific circumstances.

Contact CBSA:
Duty Deferral Program

Some of the programs that are part of the Duty Deferral Program include:

  • Drawback program
    You can get a refund of the duties paid on imported goods that are eventually exported.

  • Duties relief program
    Relieves the payment of duties on imported goods that will eventually be re-exported either in the same condition or after being used, consumed or expended in the processing of other goods.

  • Customs bonded warehouse program
    You can store goods duty and tax free in a licensed and regulated facility operated by the private sector. The goods can be stored for a limited time until they are exported or are consumed domestically. Relief of the HST is available under this program.

You may also be able to access the duty deferral programs more quickly and conveniently through the designated Free Trade Zones (FTZs) already established in Canada:

Authentication and certification of documents

When you start to export you may be asked to present official documentation, which can include providing authenticated and certified documents. Below are a number of options to get the required authentication and certification.

Canada: Authentication of documents

Global Affairs Canada authenticates or certifies signatures on various Canadian documents for use abroad (for example, birth, certificates, contracts, and government documents such as patents and trademark registrations).

As a starting point, please carefully review all of the online information provided by the Authentication and Service Division, Documents Section of Global Affairs Canada.

Contact Global Affairs Canada:
Authentication of documents

Ontario: Official Documents Services (ODS)

If you are doing business or travelling abroad, you may be required to provide proof of authentication for official documents issued in Ontario. The ODS office of the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery formally authenticates legalized documents requested by foreign consulates and embassies.

Contact ODS:
Authenticate a document for use outside Canada

Canadian Chamber of Commerce: Certification of documents

Many health-related, food and beverage products will require additional documentation in the form of a certificate, that can be obtained from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce for a small fee.

Contact Canadian Chamber of Commerce:
Certification of documents

Export training

Having the right training and skills is necessary for you or your employees when dealing with the complex and evolving field of export.

Here are some resources that can help you:

Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) - Seminars and workshops

Take advantage of regional events that feature a half day program of workshops, roundtable discussions and networking sessions focused on export topics of interest to local small and medium-sized companies. The Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) offers general export information on: Export Financing, E-Commerce, E-Business, Internet Exposure Benefits, and Managing Export Growth.

Contact MEDJCT:
Grow your business here and abroad
Calendar of international trade programs and events
E-commerce 101 for exporters

The Forum for International Trade Training (FITT)

FITT provides interested exporters with the training and skills necessary to compete in international markets through their FITTskills Courses:

  • Global business environment
  • Global supply chain management
  • International trade research
  • International marketing

Contact FITT:
FITT courses

Professional development modules

Get help understanding topics such as the import tariff classification system, export documentation and regulations, through online training modules offered by the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers (CSCB). You can register even if you are not a member.

Contact the CSCB:
Professional development modules

Export financing

Finding and exporting to new markets can require good financial resources. You may have to expand your production facilities, develop a distribution network, or accommodate a buyer who is requesting the best terms possible and guarantees before buying your product or service. Listed below are different financing options that may be available to your export venture.

CanExport Program

You could get up to $50,000 to reimburse up to 50% of eligible expenses to promote your business in new international markets. Your for-profit business must:

  • Be either incorporated, a limited liability partnership or a cooperative
  • Employ less than 500 full-time employees
  • Have an annual revenue between $100,000 and $100 million

Eligible activities include:

  • E-commerce adoption and expansion
  • New COVID-19 related certifications and requirements
  • Business travel
  • Trade fairs (includes virtual)
  • Market research
  • Marketing tools updates
  • Legal fees for distribution or representation agreements

Eligible expenses include travel costs and contractor or consultant fees. Other conditions apply.

Contact the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS):
CanExport SMEs


EDC offers a range of risk reduction financial products and services, to small exporters interested in export receivables insurance and export financing support. They also provide services to any exporter, of any size, operating in any sector of the economy (including the service sector) and generally looks for at least 50% Canadian content.

Services include:

Contact EDC:

For other export financing programs that may be of assistance to you consult the online Business Benefits Finder.

Sources of export assistance

Take advantage of available help to get your business export ready. There are organizations that offer a number of services that can help you expand to international markets.

Trade and investment

You can access a wide range of management resources, perspectives and data from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's website that can help you develop and expand your markets, create alliances and find new clients.

Read online:
International trade and investment

Programs and services by industrial sector

Access in-depth, industry-specific analysis, statistics, contacts, news, events, financing and regulatory information for Canadian business from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

Use online:
Research and business intelligence

Crossing borders on business

As you build your export business, you or your clients may need to cross international borders. The following resources may help to make the process smoother and more profitable for you and your business associates. 

Canada-Ontario Export Forum (COEF)

The COEF is a source for the information, counselling, market intelligence, financial assistance and on the ground support you need to make your export venture a successful one.

Contact COEF:
Canada-Ontario Export Forum (COEF)

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)

If you are a new or experienced exporter of food, beverage and agricultural products the export marketing unit of OMAFRA offers a number of services, including counselling, seminars, trade missions, international trade shows, sourcing and market intelligence. They also administer the PROFIT food export seminar; a two-day seminar that addresses the basics of exporting to the U.S. market.

Contact OMAFRA:
Export services
PROFIT: New-to-Exporting Seminar

Foreign exchange facility guarantee

Take advantage of EDC's foreign exchange facility guarantee (FXG) by purchasing forward contracts from financial institutions and locking in exchange rates as protection against foreign currency fluctuations.

Read online:
Foreign Exchange Facility Guarantee

Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC)

Get assistance with government procurement, specifically in aerospace, defence and security, clean technologies and emerging and developing country markets. The CCC is an export sales agency of the Government of Canada that brings buyers and Canadian exporters together through contracts built on the best possible terms and conditions.

Contact CCC:
Canadian Commercial Corporation

Business Women in International Trade

The business women in international trade website is a gateway to a wealth of information on preparing for and succeeding in the export marketplace.

Read online:
Business Women in International Trade

Other SBS documents of interest:

Non-governmental trade organizations

There are many trade organizations that have a strong export focus. Many of these organizations offer seminars and export information on foreign markets:

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