BY BILL PHILLIPS
There’s opportunity in uncertainty.
That’s the message from Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, to a country that is trying to figure out how it will be affected by rapidly changing policies south of the border.
One opportunity Canada can pounce on is the fact it is recently negotiated a trade agreement with the European Union while a similar deal between the U.S. and the EU has fallen apart.
Companies can take advantage, he said.
“With the collapse of the Trans Pacific Partnership, as the United States are pulling out of it, Canada should be negotiating agreements with the signatories to the TPP,” he told a crowd of about 50 people at the Prince George Chamber of Commerce Business Development Forum Tuesday. “Most of the work has been done.”
He added that Japan is a market Canada and B.C. should immediately looking at development.
And, pointing the fact companies like Microsoft have opened office on this side of the 49th, Beatty said Canada should be attracting more of that talent.
“We should today, as the Americans close their doors and other countries begin to turn inward, we have an opportunity like no other to literally go across the road and invite the best and brightest in the world to come here and help us build Canada,” he said.
Another message that Beatty has for businesses who may be jittery about their future dealings with the U.S. is that there are American voices who understand, and support, the magnitude of trade between the two countries.
“The U.S. Chamber is the single most respected business association in Washington D.C.,” he said. “They’ve been great allies of us. They support our efforts to build bridges to U.S. businesses.”
He said here in B.C., businesses and politicians can be looking to build some of the bridges into Washington State. In addition, the scope of Canadian trade into the U.S. is huge and that message needs to get to local politicians south of the border.
“Canada’s the best customer for 35 of the 50 States,” he said. “Just as we do 70 per cent of our business with them, we’re the most important customer for the States. Millions of jobs in the United States depend on that relationship.”
Beatty said one of the biggest problems facing businesses today is skills shortages.
Another issue facing businesses is one that was identified in the 2015 election campaign by the mayors of Canada’s largest cities and is an issue here in Prince George … aging infrastructure.
“Less than 10 per cent of Canada’s infrastructure spending is dedicated to the infrastructure that will improve productivity,” he said. “Greater priority has to be placed on roads, ports, airports, bridges and digital infrastructures.”
Canada, he said, can position itself to become a world leader, if it looks at the opportunities the upcoming upheaval will bring.
“There’s a big advantage to being the one open country in a world ‘close the borders populism,’” he said. “Canada must capitalize on that to attract investment.”