Martine Heebert was the Quebec delegate in Chicago for only a few months when the first wave hit in the spring of 2020.
Nobody knows where we are going or when it will end! You can’t predict what will happen…and you know that predictability is very important in business!, she explained.
Last year was a huge challenge for Quebec offshore network. The pandemic has changed the way trade is done. Gone are the major economic missions during which representatives of dozens of Quebec companies were invited to round tables or lunch talks with potential foreign buyers.
Banquets have been replaced by
Virtual mini economic missions, where a select group of buyers met three or four target companies in Quebec.
Delegating to New York, one of the cities hardest hit by COVID-19, Catherine Loupier also had to rethink her approach to business partners. In this US state, with which trade totals about $9 billion annually, economic interests are no longer the same and protectionist threats have increased during the pandemic. Quebec had to adapt to be successful.
We realized that in medical products, we had a large supply and were able to be very flexible to shift some of the factories in manufacturing COVID related products.
It shows that the United States has a great need for the raw materials that are available on our side of the border. For example, demand for sawn timber increased by 85% in the first four months of 2021, compared to last year. Exports of minerals such as aluminum, iron and copper also experienced significant growth.
The Statistics Institute of Quebec estimates that the province managed to increase its merchandise exports by 4.7% in the first quarter of 2021, up just over $1 billion over the same period last year.
The Ministry of International Relations, for its part, analyzes the data over a period of four months instead of three. Thus, it is estimated that total exports amounted to more than $31 billion from January to April, representing an increase of 12%. Two-thirds of them were destined for the United States.
In general, the network of Quebec delegations abroad doubled the sales of companies. We put our feet on the gas pedal, wondering what opportunities we should take and roll up our sleeves!
The increase in trade after a health crisis is not surprising, as the global economic recovery is underway in the rich countries. Experts even predict extraordinary growth in the United States. In Quebec, the stability of trade reassures the government, which expects to accelerate next year.
The pandemic has created opportunities, albeit by changing consumer behavior, says Martine Heber. Quebec delegations abroad must now prepare for fall.
There is a lot of liquidity in the system […] I see the downfall as the time when our entrepreneurs will have to make efforts to cross the border, occupy the region, and ramp up business on the American side.
Sectoral oversight committees, particularly in the areas of transportation, energy and the environment, have been set up to monitor issues and opportunities in Quebec. The Biden administration’s green plan is also seen as an opportunity to stand out.