Thursday, October 15, 2009

Canada’s first Foreign Trade Zone

The federal and Manitoba governments recently announced that they would put aside $3.5million to fund the start-up and operational costs of CentrePort Canada in Manitoba – Canada’s first Foreign Trade Zone. This is big news that has long-term potential for the country, because the port will promote Canada’s competitive advantages, including the National Gateway Strategy.

The federal and provincial governments are partnering to create within CentrePort a one-stop shop for transportation, international trade and value-added manufacturing – a pilot project called the Canada-Manitoba CentrePort International Business Development Project.

There’s also the new Pan-Western Outreach Program a pilot project aimed at raising awareness in business circles about Canada’s programs and policies supporting international trade, with a focus on marketing foreign trade zone-type programs, such as the ones being coordinated and delivered through CentrePort.

As Canada’s first Foreign-Trade Zone, CentrePort will give international companies the option of shipping their out-bound goods to Manitoba, where they can be stored without additional duty costs, before being shipped to consumers in the United States. This is part of an economic agenda to position Canada as an attractive destination for international business investors.

CentrePort comprises 8,093 hectares in Winnipeg, anchored by the James A. Richardson International Airport, one of the busiest cargo hubs in the country. The new zone brings together Manitoba’s existing transportation assets, including the airport, three intercontinental rail lines – CN, CP, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe – more than 1,000 for-hire trucking companies, the Port of Churchill and the Emerson border crossing to the U.S.

A year ago, CentrePort was created under Manitoba Premier Gary Doer – Canada’s next Ambassador the U.S. – when the provincial legislature unanimously passed the CentrePort Canada Act, creating CentrePort, a private sector-led corporation.

Since then, major infrastructure investments have taken place, including $212.5 million for CentrePort Canada Way, a four-lane divided expressway announced by Prime Minister Harper to increase speedy access for moving goods to the U.S.

This package of investments and policies – from marketing to infrastructure to funding – is a comprehensive approach that will be required for Canada to compete internationally. It will help bring Canada on par with other countries that have inland ports and gateways that are hubs for export-oriented job creation.

In an era when labour and business don’t often agree about trade policy, and political parties fight over infrastructure funding, supporters of CentrePort have spoken with one voice. Stakeholders from the Manitoba Federation of Labour have worked together to bring the inland port to life. The federal Conservatives and provincial New Democrats have collaborated to get shovels in the ground. As a result, CentrePort Canada is off to a good start as a model for integrated trade and transportation policy that could spark new economic development in Canada.

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