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Cities driving trade

Montreal: the perfect mix for international trade

Montreal’s strategic location and tech skills base combined with Canada’s outward-looking approach to international trading make the city the perfect access point not just to North America, but also to the rest of the world.

Verdoni round headshot

“International trade is at the heart of Montreal’s growth strategy,” says Valérie Verdoni, senior director at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton in Canada and director of the firm’s International Business Centre. “The free-trade agreements that Canada has with its neighbours in North America, with the European Union, as well as with other blocs all over the world means we have access to more than 50 economies representing around 1.5 billion consumers.”

She adds: “And within Canada, Montreal has a wide range of advantages and incentives for international businesses.” These range from its excellent strategic location in terms of road and rail as well as air freight and travel, to world-class business infrastructure and, perhaps most compellingly, the city’s high level of human capital.

World-class knowledge base

“The access to skilled talent here in Montreal is probably one of the most popular reasons for businesses to relocate here,” says Verdoni. “The city’s 11 institutions and over 60 colleges provide a great range of talent – in particular in the technology sphere.

“Canada is an immigration-friendly country: many people come here to complete their studies but, rather than returning to their home countries [afterwards], the quality of life in Montreal means that most of them decide to stay. So that has helped to create a fantastic pool of talent.”

The tech sector has become the city’s biggest source of economic opportunity, Verdoni adds, and has benefited from a considerable level of support from the federal and provincial governments.

“Montreal has been named as the home of the Scale AI supercluster, a federal initiative put in place by the government to grow the number of jobs in the tech industry but also to challenge companies to innovate in the artificial intelligence space.

“There is also a thriving video gaming sector, and many of the world’s biggest tech companies have set up here, such as Google and Facebook .”

Additionally, Canada and, in particular Quebec, are recognised internationally as being one of the best locations for doing scientific research and experimental development (R&D) as the federal and provincial governments offer considerable and very attractive tax incentives to those companies performing R&D activities.

The right environment in the right place

Montreal’s appeal is partly due to its cultural heritage. As the biggest city in French-speaking Quebec, it offers a cosmopolitan and welcoming environment for expats. Verdoni points out that, although there are measures in place to protect the region’s French language, English is widely used to conduct business.

But the relatively low cost of setting up and running an enterprise in Montreal is a further incentive for businesses, she adds. “When comparing to other large cities in North America, rents on both office space and residential real estate are very affordable, while salaries even in high-growth areas such as technology are particularly competitive from an employer’s point of view.

“And as well as low electricity costs, especially for large power customers, there are notable tax incentives such as credits of up to 30% on R&D spending.”

The local federal, provincial and municipal governments, in collaboration with the private sector, make concerted efforts to attract international businesses to Montréal, primarily through the economic promotion agency Montréal International. Verdoni says. “There are also a number of interesting programmes set up to help local businesses maximise export opportunities, such as Export Québec and CanExport.”

The ability to offer companies across a host of sectors the opportunity to trade freely with economies in North America, Europe and the Pacific, combined with its low-cost, high-skilled business environment make Montreal the ideal location for firms of all types and sizes, and at every stage of their development.

Gateway to North America and the world

Montreal’s welcoming and outward-looking business environment make it the ideal gateway for businesses looking to expand into North America or to trade across multiple territories. To find out more about establishing your business here, contact Valérie Verdoni.

Montreal quick facts

  • Location: South-eastern Canada
  • Time zone: Eastern Standard Time GMT -0500
  • Population: 4.2 million (metropolitan area)
  • GDP: USD164 billion (CAD215bn)[1]
  • Industrial strengths: Aerospace, technology, financial services
  • Growth sectors: Artificial intelligence, fintech, video gaming
  • Regional access: Toronto 1 hour 20 minutes by air; New York 1 hour 40 minutes; Paris 7 hours; London 6 hours 40 minutes