When it comes to the value of goods that can be shipped into the country before duty is assessed (referred to as the de minimis level), Canada comes near the bottom of the list. Americans can import $200 worth of goods before duty is charged, and Australians $1000, whilst Canadians can import just $20 worth of goods before duties are levied on a shipment. This value which hasn’t changed since at least 1985.
Low de minimis levels create barriers to small business participation in global trade. Small e-commerce based companies operate on a different logistics model from traditional large-scale exporters: they may only export one or two products at a time, but they often trade with a long list of foreign export markets. Unlike traditional exporters, these companies do not have the margins or scale to contract out brokerage and customs clearance. Instead, they are forced to handle customs paperwork in-house, which creates a disincentive to launch or expand exports.