It has become so clear that even the Prime Minister named a cabinet minister to look after it.
The latest cabinet shuffle included a minister responsible for diversifying our trade relationships. This seems almost a no-brainer as Canada is a trading nation – we have a small population spread over a large land base and we’re extremely productive. We make far more than we can consume so we export the excess, making us the No. 1 trading nation on earth.
But our list of clients is lopsided with the U.S., not surprisingly given their size, proximity and cultural similarities, taking a disproportionate amount of our goods. This is especially true in the centre and east. The west tends to look more effectively towards the Pacific Rim.
Saskatchewan, interestingly, is the least reliant on the USA of all the provinces. America is still our top customer, but it accounts for a smaller share of our book of business than any other province. Because of our production of things such as potash and grain, we have strong relationships with Asia. China is our second biggest customer, and Japan is our third.
And now that America is challenging our role as a supplier to that country through tariffs and by potentially ending NAFTA, the need for more emphasis on the Pacific Rim has never been more apparent. For small- and medium-sized businesses, it can be daunting to contemplate taking on China. But it really is no different than dealing with the US – it’s international and Saskatchewan is good at doing that.
Tying up with some of the new arrivals – firms such as the ones populating the Global Trade and Exhibition Centre at Regina’s Global Transportation Hub can shorten the journey. These are smaller Chinese firms doing what we need to do – heading to another continent in search of opportunity. Partnering with them closes the distance immensely – we help them and they help us.
They represent a ready solution in a world where traditional trading patterns appear to be undergoing unprecedented change.