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NEWS: Grewal on foreign trade zone proposal in British Columbia

Global TV in British Columbia reports on a proposal to create foreign trade zones in that province. Council of Canadians organizer Harjap Grewal comments on how FTZs are contrary to the public interest in that news clip, which can be seen at http://fb.me/VvaXGvCc.

Public Eye reports, “A foreign trade zone is a location where tariffs are reduced or eliminated and goods can be stored duty or tax-free. …The (provincial) government has stated those zones…’could’ increase British Columbia’s ‘competitiveness in global markets and attractiveness as a gateway for international trade and encourage new economic activity’. …Such zones already exist near Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport and at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland.” The Gander website notes, “The Gander Foreign Trade Zone allows goods to be brought into Canada without the prepayment of duties or taxes. …If the goods are re-exported, no duties or taxes ever need to be paid – a major competitive advantage for using Canada as a base to serve the NAFTA marketplace.” The Global TV report highlights that a FTZ is not just about the temporary storage of goods in a sprawling area of warehouses, but it includes the assembly of those goods too.

Public Eye reports, “(On February 22), the (provincial) ministry of transportation and infrastructure quietly announced it was searching for a consultant to study the pros and cons of establishing location-specific foreign trade zones in British Columbia. …In an email, a spokesperson for Global Container Terminals Inc. confirmed Ken Dobell (chair of the government relations firm Hill and Knowlton Canada) – along with his colleague Tamara Little – has been communicating with the government regarding foreign trade zones on behalf of the company. GCT…is one of North America’s largest container terminal operators. Those terminals include TSI Vanterm in Vancouver and Deltaport at Robert’s Bank. …(GCT is also) pushing for a federal foreign trade zone program that could be activated anywhere in Canada.”

The Delta Optimist reported on April 13 that, “Eric Waltz, president of Global Container Terminals Canada, noted lands adjacent to Deltaport, which is eyed for a major expansion in the next few years, could be an ideal candidate to establish a foreign trade zone, particularly the new logistics centre which will open at the Tsawwassen First Nation. …Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington said it’s clear Delta would be considered the logical location, but what’s not clear at this point is the potential impacts to the community as well as B.C. businesses. Delta North MLA Guy Gentner this week said he has many questions and concerns about what a foreign trade zone would mean for a community already besieged by industrialization and loss of farmland. ‘And now, this application could further eliminate regulations, corporate and industrial taxes, environmental assessments, and labour laws. Clearly the agenda is certain: an industrialized free trade zone, likely located here. I think we may have one of the biggest assaults on Delta yet to come, and people need to be prepared,’ Gentner said.”

Public Eye also reports, “A (provincial) government spokesperson stressed Ottawa controls the policy levers to allow for the establishment of location-specific foreign trade zones….” The Gander website specifies, “Recently the (federal) government passed a package of regulatory changes to create the Export Distribution Centre Program, effectively allowing the creation of Foreign Trade Zones in Canada… The federal government offers support (for foreign trade zones) through wage subsidies, export development programs, investment support, financing assistance, export counselling, capital financing, loans and marketing projects.” The province plays a role too though. The Gander website also notes, “The Province (of Newfoundland and Labrador) offers up to 15-year tax holidays, market development funding, and seed equity.” And while Public Eye notes, “(the province says) that ‘no decision’ has been made on the issue ‘and one will not be made in the short term'”, the Global TV report says that the consultant hired by the BC government will have just four months to report on the advisability of a foreign trade zone in British Columbia.

The Public Eye article is at http://www.publiceyeonline.com/archives/005893.html. The Delta Optimist article is at http://www.delta-optimist.com/news/Foreign+trade+zone+South+Delta/4549181/story.html.