OTTAWA—Canada’s provincial and territorial governments could be heading on a joint federal trade mission to Asia next year.
Premiers and territorial leaders met for three days at the Council of the Federation meeting in Vancouver, where they announced plans for a strategy called Canada in the Global Economy.
While their trade and investment agenda was focused on U.S., European Union, Asian and emerging markets, Asia dominated the conversation.
“It is very much my belief and I think a belief shared by all the premiers around the table from coast to coast to coast that it is Asia-Pacific that is the future of Canada,” said B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
“If we can focus on Asia-Pacific, we can create thousands and thousands of jobs,” Clark added.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall agreed. He noted the world’s middle class is expected to expand to 3.2 billion by 2020 and that 85 per cent of that growth is expected to take place in Asia.
Wall said India also represents an important trading partner, noting that 44 per cent of India’s Canadian imports in 2009 came from his province. Most of those were food and a bit of potash.
Other western provinces are well positioned to provide Asia food and energy security, Wall said.
But for Canada to be a bigger player in those global economies, it will mean improvements to immigration and education across the provinces.
“We need to be attracting more students from other countries and all the provinces agreed on that,” Wall said.
Leaders also called for the maintenance and expansion of the country’s physical infrastructure to accommodate the flow of services and goods, as well as better movement of tourists, immigrants, students and business people.
Infrastructure improvements not only need to happen in Canada, but overseas as well.
The Harper government has been expanding relations with China since 2006, said Chris Day, a spokesman for federal Foreign Minister John Baird.
“Recently, we opened six new trade offices and expanded our presence in cities like Beijing and Shanghai,” Day said.
But recent evaluations of Canada’s embassy in Beijing and the consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing found bureaucrats are struggling to keep pace with fresh demands on their services.
Among the things the diplomatic missions appear to need are new buildings. They’re bursting at the seams and a long-term approach is needed, the Beijing report by Canadian officials said.
“Each of the chanceries is at capacity and, in the case of Beijing, the addition of 36 full time equivalents since 2002 has been accommodated by short-term solutions that have negatively impacted (International Business Development) program staff’s work environment and a client’s image of Canada,” the report said.
The evaluations of the Chinese positions made over 200 recommendations. More than half have already been acted upon, according to the official government response contained in the reports. The remainder are expected to be implemented.
© 2011 The Canadian Press