Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) dismiss the idea of investing overseas. They view it as too complex, costly and risky. After all, aren’t we talking about opening a manufacturing facility far from home in an environment that is drastically different from Canada’s?

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Not necessarily. There are numerous ways to establish an on-the-ground presence outside Canada. Many start by opening a one-person sales office or a distribution centre in the United States or other country where they already export. Some 13 per cent of Canadian SME exporters surveyed for EDC’s Fall 2011 Trade Confidence Index said they have invested abroad. We estimate that represents more than 4,000 Canadian businesses with annual sales under $25 million.

Many reasons propel companies like yours to set up shop abroad, such as, getting closer to existing customers, accessing new suppliers, following a major client abroad, and acquiring technical skills that may be in short supply in Canada. Interestingly, at some $460 billion, the sales of our foreign affiliates are now roughly equal to the total value of Canada's exports. A decade ago, these sales were worth 75 per cent of total exports.

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