Evaluation of the Trade Commissioner Service - Summary

About the evaluation

  • The Office of Audit and Evaluation of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) undertook an evaluation of the AAFC Trade Commissioner Service to assess program relevance, design, delivery, efficiency and effectiveness.
  • The evaluation assessed the Trade Commissioner Service from 2016-17 to 2020-21 using a variety of methods including: a review of program documents, literature and administrative data; interviews with internal and external stakeholders; and a case study.

What we found

Trade commissioner service summary

  • Managed by Horizontal and Strategic Initiatives within the International Affairs Branch
  • Intended to support the Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry’s efforts to maintain market access and expand business activities in international markets
  • Over $35 million in expenditures from 2016-17 to 2020-21


  • The Trade Commissioner Service meets the needs of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector by facilitating international market development activities and advancing access to international markets.
  • Trade Commissioner Service activities are aligned with federal priorities to support global export growth and market diversification in Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector.

Design and delivery

  • AAFC's Trade Commissioner Service benefits from the hybrid model of Canada-based staff and locally-engaged staff. Locally-engaged staff bring a knowledge of local languages and cultures and are less expensive to hire. Canada-based staff have extensive knowledge of the Canadian context and can represent Canada in government-to-government interactions.
  • AAFC's Headquarters interacts primarily with Canada-based staff, whereas AAFC's locally-engaged staff trade officers report to Global Affairs Canada at the Post. Locally-engaged staff could be better integrated with AAFC's Headquarters.


Having trade commissioners situated in international markets is costly; however, these in-market resources provide valuable and efficient services to Canadian agriculture and agri-food exporters.


The Trade Commissioner Service has supported intended outcomes of the Trade and Market Expansion Program including: contributing to the advancement of market access interests; increasing stakeholder awareness of international market opportunities; helping companies take advantage of new international market opportunities; increasing access to international markets; and contributing to growing the economy.

AAFC would benefit from better integrating locally-engaged staff with AAFC Headquarters in Canada through virtual or in-Canada meetings and training. While there was valuable performance measurement available to support this evaluation, AAFC would also benefit from having direct access to and training on the use of TRIO, as well as efforts to increase the consistency and quality of data.


  • R1: The Assistant Deputy Minister, International Affairs Branch, should implement a strengthened human resource strategy to better integrate locally-engaged staff.
  • R2: The Assistant Deputy Minister, International Affairs Branch, should develop and implement ways to improve the timely access to existing data platforms and standards for the entry of key performance metrics.

Management response

Management agrees with the evaluation recommendations and has outlined an action plan to address them by March 31, 2023.