Tuesday, 18 April 2017 16:52

NB opens its borders for business with new provincial trade deal

OTTAWA • It was New Brunswick’s strategy to have the fewest exemptions in Canada's new internal trade deal in attempts to send a signal to companies elsewhere in the country that the province is open for business, according to Treasury Board Minister Roger Melanson.

The details of the 329-page Canada Free Trade Agreement, unveiled earlier this month, showed that New Brunswick secured seven specific exemptions from the deal – the fewest of any province in Canada's new internal trade deal.

Other jurisdictions moved to protect a long list of homemade advantages in attempts to safeguard existing industries or mandate businesses from elsewhere to meet specific requirements to set up shop inside the province if they want to do business.

Not New Brunswick.

The most trade-reliant province in the country is doubling down on what it believes is a way to grow the economy, seeking to both export and import even more than before.

“The strategy was to absolutely allow New Brunswick to be open for business,” Melanson said in an interview with the Telegraph-Journal. “For the province to grow its economy moving forward, we need to export more, but we also need to have incremental imports of investors and investments.

“So when the negotiation was going, obviously, we had that in mind.”

Quebec has 25 exemptions in the deal, the most of any other province.

Ontario has 21.

New Brunswick has seven.

Nova Scotia, with 14 negotiated exemptions, mandates in the deal that credit and collection services must maintain a permanent place of business in the province if they want to do businesses with Nova Scotians.

In Ontario, only residents can be travel agents.

Outfitters in Saskatchewan must be a resident of the province and have a head office.

There’s nothing like that in the deal from New Brunswick’s perspective.

“I don’t understand why they (those provinces) would want that,” Melanson said. “When you want to grow your economy, you need to grow your population, you need to grow your critical mass, and obvious if a travel agent wants to open up shop in New Brunswick, there are some rules and regulations to follow, but we’re open for business.

“We’re open to having outside investors come in and invest.”

Still, Melanson stresses that New Brunswick locked down some key exemptions.

Crown timber permits can only be granted if product is processed in New Brunswick into lumber, pulp or other wood products, according to one of the province's exemptions in the deal.

“We don’t want to see raw products not being processed in our province,” Melanson said. “That part of growing the economy and seeing more value added work in our provinces.”

Another exemption maintains that NB Liquor sets import, distribution and retail rules with suppliers and "reserves the right to preferentially promote and market locally produced alcoholic beverage products."

There is a working group that will meet over the next year in attempts to liberalize liquor border restrictions, “but at the end of the day, for us, it’s critical that we have the right to have supply management and to be able to regulate alcoholic beverages.”

Mining and fisheries exemptions are also listed.

There are also procurement exemptions dealing with contracts offered up by NB Power, Atlantic Lottery Corporation, and others.

But everywhere else, it’s a free market.

“For New Brunswick to be able to grow its economy and be more prosperous, it needs to have more exports, but also more imports in the province where you see investments being made,” Melanson said.