Scotland: a trading nation

A plan for growing Scotland's exports.


Country brief

Canada is a highly developed mixed economy with a stable political environment and a good record of economic growth. Canada’s government has a federal structure, which means that business activities and taxation are regulated at a federal, provincial and local level. 

Canada has strong links with Scotland with and a well-defined Scottish diaspora. According to the 2006 census, 4.7 million Canadians reported themselves to have Scottish origin, from a total population of just over 36 million. 

Like Scotland and the UK, Canada is considered to have one of the most transparent legislatures in the world. 

Key market information

Economic indicators


GDP 2017*


GDP per capita 2017*


GDP annual growth rate 2013-2017


GDP annual growth forecast 2018-2023


Population 2017


Projected population growth 2017-2050 (% change)


Average tariff 2016


Scotland’s exports to Canada


Scotland’s exports to Canada 2017


Average annual growth in Scotland’s exports to Canada 2013-2017


Country rank in Scotland’s exports 2017


Scotland’s top export sectors to Canada, 2017** Together, these sectors account for around 81% of Scotland's goods and services exports to Canada   
     1. Financial and Business Services
     2. Food and Drink
     3. Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing
     4. Technology, Digital and Media
     5. Wholesale and Retail Trade

Canada imports from the world


Canada goods and services imports 2017*


Canada average annual Import growth 2013-2017*


Canada Top 15 Import Sectors

Canada Top 15 Import Sectors Chart

Sources: Economic indicators (World Bank, IMF World Economic Outlook), Scotland’s Exports (Export Statistics Scotland 2017), Country Imports (World Bank, UN Comtrade).

* denotes an indicator which has been converted into GB£ from US$ using the Bank of England’s average annual spot rate data. Note growth rates may vary depending on unit of currency used.

** sector export value suppressed due to being less than £50 million.

The Canadian Economy

Canada is a highly developed economy which was ranked as the 10th largest in the world by GDP by the IMF (2018). 

The implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has further reduced barriers to trade between Scotland and Canada. The legal and business similarities between Scotland and Canada make it easier to do business there.

Key economic indicators are:

  • The Canadian economy has been growing steadily at 1.8% of GDP in 2018. (OECD)
  • Exports as a percentage of Canada’s GDP were 32% in 2018. (OECD)
  • Unemployment is relatively low at approximately 5.8% in 2018. (OECD)

Canada is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international bodies. 

Canada and the EU are signatories to CETA – an economic and free trade agreement between Canada and member states of the EU that has eliminated a significant number of tariffs between the two. 

The Department for International Trade’s guide to doing business in Canada can be found here

Strengths of the Canadian market include:

Canada ranks 22nd out of 190 countries in the World Bank rankings for ease of doing business in 2018.

  • Strong, developed economy 
  • Highly educated workforce 
  • Open economy

Benefits for Scottish businesses exporting to Canada include:

  • Canada is a bilingual country with English as one of its two spoken languages
  • Similar regulatory and legal framework
  • Strong and stable economy
  • High standard of living 

What Scotland exports to Canada

Canada is Scotland’s 18th largest export market with £580 million worth of exports in 2017, representing 1.8% of Scottish exports. (Export Statistics Scotland) 

The top 5 Scottish export sectors to Canada are:

  • Financial and Business Services
  • Food and Drink
  • Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing
  • Technology, Digital and Media
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade

Priority sectors in Canada for economic development include:

  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Agri-Food
  • Clean Technologies
  • Digital Industries
  • Health and Bioscience

Sectoral Opportunities

When compared to the export performance of comparator countries (Norway, Finland, Ireland and Denmark), Canada presents potential export opportunities in the following subsectors:

  • Mining Support and Services
  • Computer and IT Services 
  • Manufacture of Computer, Electronics, and Optical Products
  • Machinery and Equipment
  • Food
  • Chemical Sciences

Infographic showing top opportunities in Canada

Existing in-market support for Scottish businesses in Canada

Scottish Government Network of External Offices and Scottish Development International

The Scottish Government has Scottish Affairs Offices in Ottawa – working to promote Scottish interests to audiences across the country. The Scottish Government has also released a Canada engagement strategy.

Scottish Development International has bases in both in Calgary and Toronto (co-located with Scottish Government) with 2 members of staff focused on the consumer industries and science and technology sectors. 


There are currently 21 GlobalScots in Canada covering the energy, financial services and tech sectors. Canada is a priority country for expansion of the GlobalScot network. 

Department for International Trade

Contact the Department for International Trade (DIT) team in Canada for more information and advice on opportunities for doing business in Canada. 

The British Canadian Chamber of Trade and Commerce can offer member businesses support, advice and in-market introductions 

University links

Scottish institutions collaborate regularly with the University of Toronto which is one of the top five specific partner institutions for Scottish international research collaborations.

The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) has provided grant funding of £90,460 towards a £232k three year project, working with Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, and researchers from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) to understand the effects of salmon farming on the seabed in high-energy waters. 

The University of Edinburgh has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada,which establishes up to three MSc scholarships each year, with funding support from SaskPower. This collaboration is paving the way for strategic international research into Carbon Capture and Storage.

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