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Beyond the Big Border

January 2016
Joseph Doris, Public Policy and Entrepreneurship Intern

CFIB’s latest report, Beyond the Big Border, shows that despite improvements at US and Canadian border agencies, some work remains before small businesses can say they are truly engaged in free trade.

Hidden fees and a lack of transparency have forced 60% of Canadian small businesses who trade with the US to increase their prices. More than one-third of small business owners said they would not have engaged in cross-border trade had they been fully aware of the costs.

However, the speed at border crossings has improved and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) showed progress with accessibility, knowledge and how it treats customers.

How can you have a better cross-border trade experience?

The following tips are straight from small business owners surveyed for the report:

  • Consider a freight consolidator to reduce the number of shipments (lower fees and shipping costs).
  • Speak with Customs in advance and take the time to write down the contact’s name and the advice provided.
  • Factor in all of your shipping charges, duties, handling fees, taxes and exchange rates into your product before you order.
  • If you are only importing small amounts and you are not located far from a border, consider getting your own importer’s license.


Other findings of note

  • Canadian small business owners report it is easier to import from the US than it is to export there.
  • Only 13% of business owners rated the process of collecting import duties by CBSA as “good”.
  • The majority of Canadian small businesses are unaware of six out of seven programs that can make Canada-US trade easier (e.g., FASTCANPASSACIC-TPATCSA, and PIP).


To improve the flow of information for small businesses, CFIB recommends CBSA implement a fully integrated single-window initiative and provide access to all SMEs and/or at the very least re-introduce a website or webpage specifically directed at SMEs looking to import and export. The single-window approach is supported by 64% of Canadian small business owners.

January 18, 2016

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