Economic growth in emerging markets has enabled those countries’ governments to power ahead with infrastructure development and defence spending. In infrastructure alone, emerging nations need to spend US$1.1 trillion on new projects—right now. But because a lot of those projects are difficult to finance, it’s up to government-to-government relationships to get the shovels moving. That’s where Ottawa helps to make those projects happen, but also makes sure that Canadian exporters like you get in on the action.

Meet the Canadian Commercial Corporation. CCC is a Crown corporation that helps Canadian businesses sell to foreign governments around the world. Best known for facilitating major military purchases—in March, a CCC memo of understanding helped to secure a US$105-million deal for Quebec-based Bell Helicopter Textron Canada to supply eight helicopters to the Philippines—CCC has expanded the range of companies it works with over the past few years. Today, CCC assists companies, large and small, that are interested in doing business in defence contracting, foreign infrastructure and development programs. An estimated 500 Canadian suppliers now sell to foreign governments annually.

Marc Whittingham, who retires this spring as CCC’s president and CEO, offers some advice for Canadian SMEs wanting access to foreign government contracts:

Find out what governments are buying

It’s not just military hardware. Cleantech solutions, security solutions, alternative energy sources, waste management, water purification and even lighting systems have markets among international governments. One offbeat example: CCC recently helped Ottawa-based Canadian Bank Note Co. sell electronic lottery systems to Nicaragua and Honduras.

Start early, stay till the end

Government purchasing decisions can take a long time and involve numerous decision-makers. Companies should engage with CCC early, and be prepared for changes caused by sometimes shifting political situations. There’s lots of work to do besides making the sale. Trust is key.

Read: A New Way to Penetrate European Defence

Try to sell the whole package, Canadian-style

Governments are looking for turnkey solutions that include training and ongoing support. CCC expects its partners to practise good corporate social responsibility. “We’re not the cheapest, but we’re value for money,” says Whittingham. “We do more than just sell and run.”

Have a proven track record

CCC partners usually have been in business for at least two years. ISO certifications don’t hurt, but CCC will do its own review of your management, your technical capability and your financing. “We want to see a willingness to do business, an enthusiasm,” says Whittingham. Because CCC signs back-to-back contracts, making it ultimately responsible for delivery, it has to be confident there will be no surprises.

Work collaboratively and transparently

For many foreign deals, CCC also will be working with the Canadian Trade Commissioners Service, which will have connections to foreign players; as well, Export Development Canada may be involved in the financing.

Get into the supply chain

Although CCC has participated in deals as small as $1 million, contracts usually are more substantial. The prime contractor is responsible for ensuring a secure supply chain, which may be composed of an array of smaller contractors. There are no CCC requirements for these subcontractors.

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