Leaving Quebec, Expanding Abroad | Preferred Markets

(London) If the United States has long since become the natural outlet for our export companies and now monopolizes more than 70% of our total exports, it is high time to take advantage of the trade agreements that have opened doors to other markets, which we still only very much do timidly cross.

Posted at 6:30am

Two weeks ago, at the Farnborough International Air Show, I met the managers of two aviation SMEs who have decided to continue their progress outside of the North American market.

Founded in 2006, Boisbriand-based Shockform has developed mechanical surface treatment repair tools for repairing aircraft parts. Every year the company improves its order book by diversifying its customer base.

“We have developed through dealings with distributors, mainly in the United States, but we have chosen to have our own branches abroad, one in the United States and one in France, to cover the European market,” explains Brigitte Labelle , CEO and co-founder of Shockform.

Four years ago Mr.me Labelle hired Charlie Clouet as head of international development as part of the Talent Attraction program sponsored by Investissement Québec.

“For four years we have had an annual growth of 30% in our international sales, which have tripled in France and now represent 35% of our income. We are now ready to open an office there to have a local presence,” explains Charlie Clouet.

I’ve been in business for 16 years and Investissement Québec’s international support is second to none. During the pandemic, when major salons were closed, we were helped to reconfigure our website.

Charlie Clouet, Head of International Development at Shockform

Shawinigan-based Delastek, which designs and manufactures cockpits for Airbus A220 aircraft and Bombardier Global 7000 and 8000 business jets, opened a plant in Querétaro, Mexico in 2017 to better meet growing demand.


Andy Lessard, Delastek’s Business Development Manager, at the company’s stand during the Farnborough International Airshow.

“We are working with Investissement Québec to develop new markets in Mexico but also in Europe. We could get a foothold there,” explains Andy Lessard, Business Development Manager at Mauricie.

Delastek received the support of Investissement Québec to locate in Mexico and is now using the state-owned company’s network of specialists to further advance the desired breakthrough in Europe.

Marie-Ève ​​​​​​Jean, Vice President, Exports, at Investissement Québec International, confirms that Québec exporters have a keen interest in diversifying their markets and not just being limited to the United States.

“There is the Canadian market, which we are neglecting too much. However, it is a market of 80 billion exports that we are under-exploiting and it is in our interest to do so.

“We also have a free trade agreement with Mexico, which we don’t benefit enough from, and we also have the free trade agreement with Europe, where France and Germany are markets with great potential,” explains Marie-Ève ​​​​​Jean.

Business related delegations


Economic development has always been part of the work of Québec delegations abroad, but since 2019 it has been an important element of their activities.

The economic transformation that the Legault administration imposed on Québec delegations abroad was well understood. All General Delegates I have spoken to have confirmed to me that economic issues are now a significant part of their activities.

The Minister for International Relations and Francophonie, Nadine Girault, explains that economic development has always been part of the work of Quebec’s delegations abroad, but that since the launch of the new strategy in 2019 we have been addressing it in a more systematic way.

“We kept our solid diplomatic bases, but we added the economic phase. We want to increase the exports of our companies and make business people aware of the potential of foreign markets. We now measure the progress made by calculating each year the increase in fixed export sales of the companies we support,” explains Nadine Girault.

In Mexico, Delegate General Stéphanie Allard-Gomez wants Quebec companies to benefit more from the Canada-US-Mexico Free Trade Agreement (CUSMA), particularly in the automotive sector, where European and Asian manufacturers based there must meet the standard of 75% North American content.

“We have an economic services director and five commercial attachés who are trying to build bridges between businesses in Quebec and the Mexican market, where there is a lot of potential,” notes Ms.me Allard-Gomez.

Martine Hébert, Delegate General of Quebec in New York, herself an economist by training, immersed herself in her universe, since out of the 30 members of the delegation, a dozen are responsible for economic and commercial affairs.


Martine Hébert, Delegate General of Quebec in New York

We are involved in several front acts but rely heavily on Quebec’s expertise in transportation electrification. I just met the governor of Pennsylvania and they have a $60 billion budget for energy transition and transportation. I introduced him to our competitive advantages.

Martine Hébert, Delegate General of Quebec in New York

“We also helped Technostrobe set up a factory in Albany to assemble beacons for offshore wind turbines,” explains Martine Hébert.

new blood

Elisa Valentin, who arrived in Munich as the new General Delegate from Quebec in the midst of a pandemic, was particularly relieved to have organized her first official reception in the delegation last May to mark the creation of the Québec-based company Optel in the Bavarian capital.

“We establish economic, political and cultural connections, but the economy is taking more and more place in our activities. Quebec has been represented in Germany for 50 years, and we have had a cooperation agreement with Bavaria for 30 years,” said the General Delegate.

Finally, Line Rivard, newly arrived in London last March as Quebec Delegate General and having worked as a capital markets specialist at BMO for 25 years, had the perfect profile to bring more commercial momentum to the delegation.

Our sales reps share market information and have been very busy during the Farnborough Air Show. It was one appointment after another. We are very satisfied with the work done with the delegation of Quebec companies.

Line Rivard, Delegate General of Quebec in London

It should be noted that during the Farnborough air show, the team of commercial attachés in London was supported by aeronautical colleagues from the Rome, Brussels, Paris and Munich delegations.

For the President of the Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce (FCCQ), Charles Milliard, the economic support work of Quebec delegations abroad deserves more notoriety.

“SMEs in the regions need to develop the reflex to learn about the programs that help them enter new markets. We must use the international agreements that we have signed and which are underused. The French are more active in Quebec than we are in France,” laments the FCCQ President.

To remedy these shortcomings, the association signed a three-year partnership agreement with the Ministère des Relations Internationales to organize an annual tour of the heads of Quebec’s posts abroad to the regions, where they meet with entrepreneurs to explain their services and their introduce market.

Round tables were organized in Quebec, Laval, Terrebonne, Trois-Rivières, Victoriaville and Sherbrooke. Let’s hope that these meetings have created a desire and even distilled the urgency to export among our entrepreneurs in the region. Quebec is small, but the world is big.

Leave a Comment