Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Strategy: in full


The Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Strategy (ATIGS) was launched in 2017. Through this strategy, the Government of Canada and the four Atlantic provincial governments committed to working together to create jobs and strengthen the economy by increasing the number of firms engaging in international business activities and the value of those activities, by diversifying markets, and by boosting foreign investment in the region. ATIGS was designed to support the region’s long-term growth by increasing the global competitiveness of the region and its firms.

In support of this strategy, the federal and provincial partners signed a joint Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Agreement (ATIGA) in 2017. Collectively, the partners invested close to $20 million over five years to implement firm-focused, strategic market development plans to expand Atlantic Canada’s international business activities. The Agreement expired at the end of March 2022, and in recognition of the shifting global landscape caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and lessons learned during this period, partners have updated the strategy, and renewed the supporting funding agreement.

Building on momentum in the Atlantic Economy before the pandemic, and in support of an inclusive recovery, the updated ATIGS puts forward a vision for a collaborative, firm centric and growth oriented approach that enables Atlantic businesses to grow through trade and investment, and contribute to the long-term prosperity and economic success of our region.

Economic context

Prior to the pandemic, trade was an engine of growth for Atlantic Canada and a key driver of innovation for Atlantic Canada’s SMEs. Companies that engage in trade activities, on average, innovated almost twice as much as their counterparts that did not, had higher growth and revenues and paid higher wages[1]. International exports accounted for 32% of the region’s GDP in 2019 and had increased from $35 billion in 2016 to $40 billion in 2019[2]. The percentage of Atlantic businesses exporting goods and services was also on the rise, growing from 22.5% in 2017 to 27.1% in 2019, but was still lower than the national average (30.6%)[3].

The United States remained the most important market for Atlantic Canadian firms engaging in trade activities, representing 68% of the region’s total export sales in 2020 (down from 76% in 2016). From 2016 to 2020, the share of the region’s exports to the European Union also increased from 10% to 15% as firms leveraged the new Canada‑European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.[4]

Foreign direct investment (FDI) also remained an important source of growth in Atlantic Canada. Investment in the region creates jobs, enhances productivity and connects SMEs to global value chains. From 2017 to 2021, Atlantic Canada attracted an estimated $4.5 billion in announced greenfield investments, representing 3.7% of the national total. During the same period, 6,512 jobs were estimated to have been created, 5.1% of the national total.[5]

The COVID-19 pandemic was a major disruptive event and had a significant, albeit uneven, impact on the region’s trade activities. Commodity exports in the region fell by 22.5% in 2020 (-12.2% for Canada) and Newfoundland and Labrador experienced the biggest drop in total international exports in the country in 2020 at nearly 29%[6]. While the region witnessed a sustained global demand for its lumber, food products and minerals during the pandemic, this increased demand was more than offset by a drop in exports of seafood and paper products, tires and crude and refined oil.

The pandemic also demonstrated the vulnerability of global supply chains for key sectors (e.g. manufacturing or processing of seafood and agri-foods, aerospace and defense products, rubber/tire goods), and of the region’s trade ecosystem. Over 84% of the region’s exports are concentrated in resource-based industries[7], which tend to experience volatile prices set in international markets (relative to 50% for Canada)[8]. The region’s small internal market makes it particularly vulnerable to trade shocks. The shifting global landscape for trade is also creating an imperative for adaptation with increased geopolitical risks, shifts to digitalization and e-commerce, supply chain uncertainties, labour and skills shortages and an increased focus on sustainability.

The region’s exports are showing early signs of recovery from the pandemic. Year-to-date exports (Jan-Sept 2021) from the region were up from 7% from the same period in 2019.[9] Continued inclusive recovery in Atlantic Canada will depend on the ability of firms to grow through trade and investment and compete globally by:

There is a need for Atlantic firms to enhance their resiliency to compete successfully in an increasingly complex global marketplace as the region look so grow through trade and investment. In particular, diversifying markets and taking advantage of Free Trade Agreements will be a key pillar of the region’s economic success in the post-pandemic landscape. Positioning Atlantic Canada as a destination of choice for investments will be another key pillar to enhance competitiveness and promote good high-paying jobs in the region. Finally, recognizing that trade and investment, economic growth and population growth are all interconnected, ensuring a growing labour force with the right skills to be competitive in today’s economy will be another key pillar to fully enable trade and investment as a lever for growth in the region.

Updated Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Strategy

The updated ATIGS builds on successes and lessons learned, and aims to strengthen the implementation of firm-focused, growth-oriented trade and investment activities in a coordinated manner. It intends to provide a conscious course of action with clear planning objectives and expectations, an analysis of the internal and external environments in which the region operates, and a desire to deliberately focus efforts in areas of greatest opportunity. The strategy will be delivered in a nimble way that allows partners to monitor progress against clear targets and respond quickly to changes in the planning environment. Activities under the strategy will be results-oriented and aim to optimize the region’s ability to grow through trade and investment.

Guiding Principles

A set of three overarching guiding principles, supported by key behaviours as outlined below, will inform activities and how partners will collaborate to grow the Atlantic economy through trade and investment.

  1. Firm-focused and client-centered: Approach that focuses on the needs of firms at various stages of trade and investment development, as well as on developing new and innovative ways to deliver services and attract investments. Key behaviours include:
    • Building on sector capacity and capabilities by identifying markets and activities with the most potential to drive long-term growth in the region’s strategic sectors and for individual firms
    • Providing solutions aligned with the needs of firms such as labour market challenges and helping connect firms with the skills they require to grow through trade and investment
    • Providing tools to navigate international market engagement through guidance, information and best practices
    • Tailoring support to the needs of individual firms by focusing on specific pathways for growth
  2. Growth-oriented and inclusive: Focus on attracting investments in the region and commitment to help firms, at various stages of growth, take advantage of opportunities in international markets and to provide them with the tools necessary to grow in an inclusive, innovative and sustainable manner. Key behaviours include:
    • Focusing on activities that are strategic, measurable and results-driven
    • Fostering accountability through all the activities conducted as part of the strategy
    • Promoting a forward thinking approach that positions firms to take advantage of inclusive and sustainable growth opportunities in the green economy and through digitalization
    • Emphasizing and promoting investment attraction as a critical lever for growth in the region
  3. Collaborative and impactful: Coordination and collaboration between the core strategy partners, as well as with supporting partners, to plan and implement joint activities that will maximize the impact of key investments and activities. Key behaviours include:
    • Emphasizing a Pan-Atlantic outlook throughout the stages of engagement, planning and implementation with the view of maximizing benefits for the region
    • Ensuring actions are aligned with the needs of businesses and help advance the priorities of the Government of Canada and the four Atlantic Provinces
    • Supporting information sharing between the two levels of government to facilitate accurate and timely benchmarking and reporting of results
    • Supporting engagement and outreach with regional stakeholders in Atlantic Canada to ensure the approaches are targeted and effective


The ATIGS represents a collaborative approach to trade and investment growth in Atlantic Canada. The core strategy partners are:

In addition to core partners, other ecosystem players will be engaged as supporting partners as appropriate, to directly contribute to activities or to advocate for the work undertaken under the strategy. The skills, resources and expertise of supporting partners may be drawn upon by core partners to develop and implement activities. This recognizes the wide ecosystem in place to support trade and investment in the region and aims to fully capitalize on its strengths. Supporting partners could include, but are not limited to:

The strategy will also benefit from the awareness and advocacy of various organizations. These organizations need to be aware of the work conducted under the strategy, and core partners need to be aware of the work of these organizations. Core partners will aim for regular dialogue and outreach, as appropriate, with stakeholder groups such as:


The objectives support the vision of growing Atlantic SMEs through trade and investment, to contribute to the long-term prosperity and economic success of the region. The objectives also reflect the guiding principles, and are linked to the region’s current environment and future opportunities.

In collaboration with supporting partners and stakeholders, the strategy’s core partners will work to achieve the following three main objectives:

In order to monitor progress against these objectives, a performance measurement framework will be established in the first year of the strategy. Further details are provided in the Results and Reporting section below.

Areas of focus

To meet these objectives, collaborative action will target three areas of focus:

  1. Identify firms poised for growth and support them through their trade and investment journey
    • Integrate trade in the growth strategies of firms.
    • Identify pragmatic solutions to assist firms in navigating barriers to trade.
    • Actively disseminate market and sector intelligence to help firms capitalize on free trade agreements and diversification opportunities.
    • Pathfind and help connect firms with the support they need to access the human and technological resources required to enhance their growth potential.
    • Build capacity, awareness and skills needed to grow through trade.
    • Promote the value of trade and grow the pool of potential firms engaging in trade.
  1. Support firms to diversify and expand in new and existing markets 
    • Reduce trade risk through market diversification and addressing obstacles.
    • Help firms align products and services with demand in various international markets.
    • Convene partners and stakeholders to support firm-centric approaches and strategic cross-sectoral collaborations.
    • Support firm resiliency and strengthen supply chains.
    • Promote regional strategic approach to expand the breadth and diversity of trade activities.

  2. Leverage resources to attract foreign direct investment to Atlantic Canada
    • Leverage national foreign direct investment programming and activities.
    • Market the region’s unique characteristics.
    • Identify and promote areas and sectors of opportunity.
    • Apply a collaborative regional lens to investment attraction.

In addition, core partners will ensure the lenses of inclusion, diversity, sustainable growth, digitization, innovation and supply chain optimization are considered across the breadth of trade and investment activities supported under the areas of focus. This include, but is not limited to:

It is also expected that activities conducted under one area of focus, as well as applying the lenses, will complement other areas of focus and lenses. For example, applying the lenses of inclusion and diversity will enhance our ability to support new firms through their trade and investment journey, and supporting firms to diversify and expand in new and existing markets will help us attract investment in the region.

Strategic elements

Core partners will support activities that are aligned with the objectives and the areas of focus of the strategy. Those activities are divided into two broad categories, referred to as strategic elements:

  1. Trade and investment readiness
    • Firm-centric activities that prepare for international market participation, and ecosystem support, both as it relates to trade and investment attraction.
  2. Market engagement
    • Both short-term and long-term programs and activities that relate directly to conducting international business activities and investment attraction.

Examples of activities under both strategic elements can be found in Appendix A. Strategic elements will be funded through the Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Agreement, and through other resources dedicated to trade and investment under the ATIGS.

Given the current economic context, and based on the core partners’ assessment of past programming, there will be an enhanced focus on firm-centric activities that prepare for international market participation and on longer-term sector agnostic market engagement programs and activities. Short-term market engagement activities will be assessed against return on investment, as well as the need and incremental nature of the support for firm growth through trade.

Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Agreement

The ATIGS is supported by a five-year Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Agreement, which is cost-shared by the Government of Canada and the four Atlantic governments. The agreement is a key funding instrument designed to support the implementation of ATIGS by funding activities aligned with the objectives, areas of focus and strategic elements outlined in this strategy. Additional details on this federal-provincial funding agreement are included in Appendix A. 

In addition to this funding agreement, provincial and federal governments will continue to advance the objectives of ATIGS through unilateral, bilateral or multilateral investments using existing funding and programs, and leveraging expertise from other partners, where appropriate.

Implementation and governance

The ATIGS is implemented collaboratively by the core partners. This approach includes regular planning, industry engagement, coordinated activities, and the sharing and reporting of data to maximize efficiencies and leverage resources in support of the ATIGS objectives. The Strategy’s core partners will work together to grow the Atlantic Canada’s economy through trade and investment, using a nimble approach that is responsive to market opportunities and the needs of the firms. They are committed to continue improving the governance of the strategy, and will look to implement the renewed ATIGS by:

The following governance structure supports implementation of the ATIGS and the funding agreement:

Atlantic Trade and Investment Steering Committee – This federal-provincial Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM)-level committee is responsible for providing strategic direction and oversight for the implementation of the ATIGS and the funding agreement. This role includes the identification of shared priorities and oversight of activities that will be supported by the funding agreement. The committee comprises ADM-level representatives from ACOA, Global Affairs Canada, Invest in Canada, and the four Atlantic provincial governments. The Steering Committee will provide direction to their respective officials for the collaborative implementation of the strategy and provide strategic direction to their officials to ensure that activities conducted under the funding agreement are aligned with the strategy.

Atlantic Trade and Investment Management Committee – This federal-provincial, senior level officials committee is responsible for coordinating the management and implementation of the ATIGS as well as the planning and execution of trade and investment activities under the funding agreement. The committee takes direction from the Steering Committee and is comprised of senior officials from ACOA, Global Affairs Canada, and the four Atlantic provincial governments. The Management Committee will provide information to the Steering Committee on the realities on the ground and provide advice to review and adapt activities based on that context. In addition, they will manage and oversee activities under the funding agreement to ensure they are aligned with the strategy.

Atlantic Sector Teams – Sector teams are responsible for developing industry-specific strategic trade plans, in line with the ATIGS’ objectives, for strategic sectors in Atlantic Canada. These plans will include trade development activities that address firm-specific and industry-specific challenges and opportunities in the Atlantic region. Investment activities that align with sector and market activities will be considered for inclusion in the sector plans, where appropriate. The sector teams are composed of working-level representatives from the federal and provincial governments and key industry associations. Strategic sectors that could benefit from a collaborative and coordinated approach within and across sectors provided by sector teams could include[10]:

The Management Committee will be supported in the implementation of ATIGS by other strategic teams that will implement a nimble approach to their governance in order to adapt as needed and maximize results. These could include:

Results and reporting

Core strategy partners are focused on achieving concrete and measurable results, both through the ATIGS and the funding agreement. ATIGS core partners will share meaningful and timely trade and investment data to support the benchmarking and reporting of the results of activities conducted under ATIGS, including with regards to the funding agreement.

Core partners will collaborate to update the Strategy’s performance measurement framework, which will include a series of performance metrics to track progress against objectives and expected results. Data will be tracked at the macro-level (trade and investment performance of the region and of sectors of focus) as well as at the program-level and project-level. Data sources to track progress will be outlined in the performance measurement framework and could include survey data from firms that benefit from activities and services as well as data from Statistics Canada. Targets will be set by the Steering Committee to ensure that metrics are on track to meet the strategy’s objectives and expected results. This could include indicators such as:




The Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Agreement (the agreement) will fund activities that capitalize on competitive strengths and regional sector capacity while leveraging identified opportunities in markets with high growth potential or where Canada has negotiated agreements for trade. The agreement will align federal and provincial priorities and maximize resources to drive the ATIGS outcomes of improving and increasing the Atlantic region’s global competitiveness.

Strategic elements

The agreement will fund the development and implementation of activities that further the objectives of the ATIGS. The scope of activities is divided into two broad categories referred to as strategic elements:

Trade and investment readiness

Firm-centric activities that prepare for international market participation such as but not limited to:

Ecosystem support connected to trade and investment that help drive international competiveness such as but not limited to:

Market engagement

Activities that require longer-term investments such as but not limited to:

Activities that require shorter-term investments such as but not limited to:

Budget and term

The $20 million agreement will be implemented over five years starting April 1, 2022. The notional allocation of funds will be:

  1. Trade and investment readiness (30%)
    • target of 20% for firm-centric activities that prepare for international market participation
    • target of 10% for ecosystem support connected to trade and investment that help drive international competiveness
  2. Market engagement (70%)
    • target of 40% for long-term market engagement activities
    • target of 30% for short-term market engagement activities


[1] SME Profile: Canadian Exporters (January 2015) - SME research and statistics.

[2] Table 36-10-0222-01 Gross domestic product, expenditure-based, provincial and territorial, annual (x 1,000,000).

[3] 2019 Survey of Innovation and Business Strategy (SIBS), Statistics Canada, July 2021.

[4] Home - Trade data online (

[5] fdiMarkets.

[6] Home - Trade data online (

[7] Includes agriculture and agri-foods; fishing and seafood; mining, oil and gas; refined petroleum; and forestry.

[8] Home - Trade data online (

[9] Home - Trade data online (

[10] Projects funded under ATIGS and ATIGA will focus on, but will not be limited to, the sectors listed in this strategy.

[11] Includes oil & gas; clean technologies; and renewable energy.

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