The Saskatchewan government is moving full steam ahead with its plan to open four new international export offices.
Offices will open in London, UK; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Mexico City, Mexico; and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The move will give Saskatchewan a stronger presence in those regions by expanding the province’s international network, according to the government.
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The province says the establishment of these spaces is being implemented in an effort to facilitate investment trade efforts to grow and diversify Saskatchewan’s exports, helping the economic recovery from COVID-19.
“We are now going through the process of recruiting CEOs for those offices and we expect to have two of them open in November and two more in the first quarter of the calendar year,” said Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Trade and Export. Development.
The number of international offices will double as the province already has a permanent presence in Japan, India, Singapore and China.
Offices in Japan, India and Singapore were open for companies earlier this year, while the one in Shanghai, China, has been operational since 2010.
Office staff work full time for the provincial government to promote business and economic interests.
Harrison says that despite the pandemic, Saskatchewan businesses can export about 65 percent of what they produce.
Some popular export items include potash, oil, wheat, canola seeds, lentils, canola oil, peas, canola flour, soybeans, and barley.
Like the cost of exporting these products, operating those international offices is not cheap.
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“It’s about a million dollars per year per office, all of our international commitment will be around $ 9 million this year with the eight offices and the management associated with that, but I mean the return on investment was more. of $ 30 billion of international trade last year. … ”Harrison explained.
“Of course the offices are not responsible for every dollar of that trade, but that said, having that long-term presence on the ground has really paid significant dividends to the province, we would see it as a tremendous return on investment,” he added. .
Harrison also says that with Saskatchewan negotiating its own deals, rather than the Canadian government, the province has been able to secure lower rates.
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The Minister of Trade and Export Development goes on to say that the Saskatchewan government decided to take trade matters into its own hands, against relying on the federal government because it believes it can secure better deals overall.
In 2019, the minister, with the help of former Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his company called Harper and Associates, lobbied senior Indian government officials to lower tariffs on Saskatchewan peas and lentils.
Harper and Associates is paid for its role in assisting with the establishment of the international offices. The contract is annual and is renewed annually.
Harrison said the meeting resulted in the province temporarily lowering the tariff from 30 percent to 10 percent from June to August in 2020 and beyond.
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Jason Childs, associate professor of economics at the University of Regina, explains why the provincial government may have been tempted not to leave business matters to federal government officials.
“I think the perception that Saskatchewan feels underrepresented abroad and our interests are not being served, I think it says a lot about what’s going on,” Childs said.
He adds that international offices are not uncommon among Canadian provinces, and they have the support of all parties.
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With Saskatchewan at the forefront of its own business decisions, Childs says the province can spearhead trade missions that are dedicated to answering for the specific agricultural products the province has to offer the rest of the world.
“So the products we produce here in Saskatchewan will be radically different than the products produced in Quebec or Southern Ontario, which are much more driven by manufacturing,” Childs said.
He says that if the Canadian government were making these deals, then the time that government officials spend having to represent the other jurisdictions across the country would be divided.
Childs goes on to say that Saskatchewan has some notable benefits from having its own international trading partners to defend its own interests, rather than other Canadian provinces or elsewhere in North America.
“Pure population, pure market size, the Canadian market is only 38 million people, while in some of the countries that we are talking about like Vietnam, China, India and the United Kingdom, there are hundreds of millions, thousands of millions of people involved, so it’s a much bigger market, ”Childs said.
Harrison says these exports will provide numerous job opportunities for residents.
—With files from Mickey Djuric
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