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A report released last month by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce warns that, at least in Ontario, exporters are far too reliant on U.S. business. Almost 80% of the province’s exports are destined for the U.S., leaving Ontario’s economy “highly exposed to the ebbs and flows of the American economy.”

Why do SMEs that have had success in exporting to the U.S. shy away from other markets? Partly out of fear of the unknown. A fear that, according to recent Conference Board of Canada research, may not be unfounded. After examining all exporting Canadian SMEs, researchers found that most fail less than a year after entering an emerging market.

Simply put, it’s easier to sell to the U.S. than it is to many other foreign markets. This is because cultural and legal differences are minor, it’s relatively easy to meet with your clients in person and shipping is not too complicated (although still subject to more red tape than most entrepreneurs would like). Plus, there’s federal support for such endeavours: to cite just one example, new investments in the Windsor-Detroit International Crossing will make it even easier for southwestern Ontario exporters to serve their U.S. customers.

Read: 5 Ways to Make a Trade Mission Pay

Canada’s economic growth forecast is based heavily on the assumption that U.S. demand for Canadian exports will strengthen.

But maybe it’s time for that focus to shift—especially considering there’s more and more support available for companies who want to sell to non-U.S. export markets. Officials are working to modernize Canada’s intellectual-property framework to align it better with international practices and to reduce the administrative burden for innovative Canadian businesses. And experts are consulting on a “Made in Canada” branding campaign to raise consumer awareness of the quality and range of Canadian-made products, both domestically and internationally.

Read: Russia Is Tough But Rewarding for Canadian Exporter

The Conference Board of Canada study found that the few Canadian SMEs that thrive in challenging emerging markets have a strong R&D focus, with innovative products and services to offer foreign clients. Some good news on that front: the 2014 federal budget announced the government’s intent to refocus its Atlantic Canada-based innovation programs to ensure that they support the development and commercialization of new ideas, technologies, products and services.

What’s easiest is not necessarily always what’s worth doing. Perhaps it’s time to look farther than our neighbour to the south when deciding where to sell abroad.

Read: You’ve Cracked the U.S. Now What?

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