Canada’s government has been on a tear of late in negotiating bilateral and regional international trade and investment deals.

In the past two years alone, Canada has signed or concluded four free trade agreements (FTAs) and 14 foreign investment protection agreements (FIPAs), while multilateral negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) have ground to a halt (save for a recent trade facilitation deal). Canada currently is negotiating or in exploratory discussions for another 16 FTAs and 10 FIPAs—among them, agreements with the European Union, China, India, South Korea and Japan, as well as negotiations for the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Read: 3 Ways the Canada-EU Trade Deal Can Trip You Up

These are new-generation trade deals. Rather than focusing on traditional goals—such as reducing customs duties and other trade-distorting practices at the border—they address more subtle trade barriers beyond the border, such as cumbersome technical regulations, insufficient protection of intellectual property rights, and unfair terms and conditions in government procurement. They also seek to reduce barriers to trade in the services sector (including the cross-border movement of people) and to protect foreign investment against discrimination, expropriation and unfair treatment.

It’s all part of what our federal government claims is the “most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canada’s history.” Whether or not these deals meet such lofty expectations remains to be seen—but Canadian firms should not ignore these developments. In fact, any business with export aspirations should factor these developments into its decision-making process and long-term strategy.

Here are three reasons why you should keep on top of the government’s trade-related wheelings and dealings:

1.  Trade deals reduce barriers for SMEs

The negotiation of new FTAs or FIPAs, or the expansion of existing treaties, reduces trade barriers and creates new geographical and product market opportunities for exporters. Although the U.S. remains our most important target market by far and will always play a significant role in our export profile, new opportunities in other markets in the EU, China and other high-growth developing countries hold significant promise for Canadian firms seeking to diversify.  In negotiating these deals, the Canadian government is following the old “if you build it, they will come” strategy.

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