Western premiers on Asian trade quest

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell are on a mission to drum up more business in Asia.

Three western premiers are leaving for Asia on Friday, with an eye to promoting investment in their provinces from China and Japan and touting the region as Canada's "economic powerhouse."

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, Alberta’s Ed Stelmach and British Columbia’s Gordon Campbell are making the trek as part of their recently signed New West Partnership agreement, which commits them to work together promoting trade and reducing trade barriers.

Wall said the three provinces may establish a trade office in China.

"There's a cost issue, to be sure, if we were to do this," said Wall. "There's also a branding issue.

"Because it's one thing for the Saskatchewan brand to be known in a market that big and that far away. It's a little bit better to leverage the western Canadian brand or the Canadian brand, and so if we were to do something like that — that would be the rationale — yes, cost and also the branding issue of the 'Canadian brand.'"

"The recent economic downturn has proven that we are stronger if we work together," said Campbell.

"The New West Partnership is not only an integral agreement to improve our economy domestically, but also creates new opportunities to market Western Canada on an international stage. We will market our region’s incredible potential to our trading partners in Asia."

Stelmach added: "The West is stronger than ever and we offer one of the most attractive business environments in the world. Asia is a critical market and this mission will showcase the West’s leadership on resource development, clean energy technologies and innovation."

Spreading message

"Saskatchewan is focused on establishing the West as Canada’s economic powerhouse," Wall said.

"Our first joint task is to take our message to the vast market opportunities that exist in Asia. The West has the resources the world needs, we have the opportunities global investors want and the New West Partnership is making it as easy as possible to access them."

The premiers will work to establish a permanent collaborative trade and investment presence in Asia and promote Western Canada’s competitive advantage of having some of the lowest corporate income tax rates in the G7 with stable financial institutions.

The trade mission will market the region’s natural resources such as gold, copper, potash, wood, natural gas and metallurgical coal, as well as Western Canada’s geographical advantage as the Pacific Gateway.

The three provinces signed a partnership deal April 30 committing to remove barriers to economic development and function more as a single economic zone. Under the New West Partnership, professional qualifications and business licences obtained in one province will be recognized by each of the partners.

The provinces also hope to save costs by jointly making purchases of such things as pharmaceutical supplies.

The premiers will be in Japan and China for about 10 days.