A question of timing . . .
Alberta’s minister responsible for trade, Tanya Fir, said the new provincial government is reviewing its 12 international offices – on which it reportedly spends $10.3 million annually – as part of a broader effort to economize its operations. The move has raised some concerns for those who feel these offices have value as gateways to economic engagement with key global economies, particularly in Asia. The review is nothing out of the ordinary, as Alberta has regularly reviewed its international offices in the past, but the review comes at a critical time in the global economy.
Supporting Canada’s foreign policy . . .
Alberta, like other Canadian provinces, has international offices that work to attract investment and help its companies enter foreign markets. Canada is unique in that its constitution gives provinces a high degree of autonomy in international affairs. For decades, provinces – and their international offices – have played a key role in promoting trade and investment abroad, helping to shape Canada’s broader foreign policy agenda. For instance, 2020 will be the 50th anniversary of Alberta’s Tokyo office. Today, nine of Alberta’s 12 international offices are located in Asia.
Facilitating trade diversification . . .
While Alberta’s agri-food and energy sectors remain important, recent experiences such as the crash in the oil sector and China’s export bans on canola and pork, suggest a clear need for the province to explore new avenues for trade. According to APF Canada’s Investment Monitor, investment from the Asia Pacific into Alberta plummeted from C$32 billion in 2011-14 to C$3.6 billion in 2015-18, which coincides with the crash in the oil sector in 2014. Alberta’s international offices can play a critical role in boosting Alberta’s (and Canada’s) economic prosperity by facilitating the province’s trade diversification agenda, particularly in helping emergent tech sectors find new markets and attract investment.
- Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada: Investment Monitor Annual Report 2019
- Edmonton Journal: From Hong Kong to Washington, D.C., Alberta's international trade offices under review
- International Journal: Canadian provinces and foreign policy in Asia