Alberta trade offices seek outside help in ramping up U.S. presence | CBC News


Alberta is on the lookout for exterior assist with authorities and public relations because the province embarks on its largest growth of U.S. commerce workplaces since first appointing a consultant to Washington in 2004.

Final month, the province introduced it will open commerce workplaces in Seattle, Denver and Chicago in 2022, including to the prevailing workplaces in Houston and Washington. 

The 2 requests for proposals, posted simply earlier than Christmas, seeks a 3rd social gathering to assist create and execute plans for participating with the federal administration, Congress and state governments, and getting Alberta protection within the nationwide and regional U.S. media.

The profitable events will likely be contracted for 2 years, with the risk of a one-year extension. 

James Rajotte, a former Edmonton-area Conservative MP named Alberta’s senior consultant to Washington in 2020, will likely be accountable for the workplaces, together with an current one in Mexico Metropolis. 

Rajotte says 85 per cent of Alberta’s exports go to the U.S. so it is essential to have ears on the bottom for alternatives and points. 

“You simply merely should be current,” he stated in an interview with CBC Information.” All people is attempting to get the eye of policymakers south of the border, so you must allocate sustained devoted assets so as to take action.”

Alberta exports to the U.S. totalled $77.5 billion in 2020, that means the trouble is price it, Rajotte stated. 

“Due to the dimensions of the commerce, if we will improve that even by a share or two, that is an enormous quantity of profit to us right here in Alberta.” 

The price of opening the brand new commerce workplaces is estimated at $2.3 million. A spokesperson for Jobs, Economic system and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer stated the cash is coming from the ministry’s current funds.  

Mistrust dynamic

Critics query the worth of a provincial authorities having a presence in Washington D.C. 

Former Progressive Conservative minister Murray Smith was Alberta’s first senior commerce consultant to Washington, serving from 2004 to 2007. Smith was succeeded by Gary Mar, one other former cupboard minister, and former Conservative MP Rob Merrifield. Former diplomat Gitane da Silva headed up the workplace when the NDP had been in authorities. 

Greg Anderson is a political science professor on the College of Alberta who focuses on U.S.-Canada relations, worldwide commerce and the North American political financial system. 

Anderson stated it is helpful for a provincial authorities to have eyes and ears on the bottom, significantly within the commerce workplaces exterior of Washington the place employees can play shut consideration to points arising in state legislatures and the area. However, he argued, it’s tough to quantify how a lot commerce is generated solely by including extra workplaces and employees. 

As for the Washington workplace, Anderson stated, lawmakers will hear politely whereas assembly with an Alberta consultant however will likely be unlikely to do something which may ruffle feathers in Ottawa. 

Alberta’s commerce workplaces aren’t as unbiased because the province makes them out to be as they’re all the time positioned inside a Canadian consulate or embassy the place provincial officers work intently with their federal counterparts, Anderson stated.

“These workplaces overseas are depicted as Alberta defending its pursuits. And there is all the time a form of federal battle … factor happening with all of this, the place the mistrust of Ottawa representing Alberta’s pursuits correctly is all the time within the background,” he stated. 

“James Rajotte works out of the Canadian embassy, proper? There’s little or no that he does that the Canadian, the federal authorities officers usually are not conscious of.”

Fewer employees at worldwide workplaces 

In extra to its North American workplaces, Alberta has employees in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Taiwan, Delhi, Singapore and London, that are the duty of Make investments Alberta, a Crown company arrange in 2020.

Whereas not one of the worldwide workplaces have closed previously two years, nearly all are working with fewer employees members than in 2019. A spokesperson stated some employees have left the workplaces and the federal government is trying to exchange them. 

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous, the NDP critic for jobs, financial system and innovation, was the financial improvement and commerce minister when his social gathering was in authorities. As minister, Bilous led commerce missions to attach Alberta companies with traders in Asia. 

Bilous stated the present authorities’s focus is to encourage traders to return to Alberta, to not help Alberta companies discover contracts abroad. He stated the worldwide workplaces now not have the employees to make these connections. 

He apprehensive the present authorities is placing all its eggs in a single basket by focusing closely on the U.S. market. 

The placement of the brand new U.S. commerce workplaces reveals the federal government continues to be targeted solely on oil and fuel funding, and never on diversification, Bilous stated.

He questioned, for instance, why Alberta now not has a presence in Silicon Valley or the United Arab Emirates. 

“The U.S. clearly is our largest buying and selling companion. Having representatives in [that] market to advertise Alberta, I feel is an effective factor,” he stated.

“For me, the frustration is that the remainder of precedence markets for us have been fully gutted.”



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