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NEWS: Report on advisability of FTZs in BC expected within months

The British Columbia government is exploring the creation of foreign trade zones (FTZs) in that province. Last week, Tim McEwan, president of Initiative Prince George (“a corporation governed by a private sector Board and owned by the City of Prince George responsible for facilitating economic development in Prince George”), wrote in the Vancouver Sun that, “The federal government should give priority to…revising Foreign Trade Zone policies and arrangements into a more coherent and understandable regime that meets favour in international markets looking at Canada as a place for value-added production.”

WHAT IS A FOREIGN TRADE ZONE? 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 Gander International Airport 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.” A recent 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.

HOW IS THIS MOVING FORWARD? “(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)…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. …(GCT is also) pushing for a federal foreign trade zone program that could be activated anywhere in Canada.”

HOW COULD A FTZ IMPACT A COMMUNITY? The Delta Optimist has reported, “Delta North (NDP) MLA Guy Gentner has 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.”

HOW/ WHEN WILL THE DECISION BE MADE? Public Eye reports, “A (provincial) government spokesperson stressed Ottawa controls the policy levers to allow for the establishment of location-specific foreign trade zones… While, “(the province says) that ‘no decision’ has been made on the issue ‘and one will not be made in the short term’”, a Global TV report in mid-May said 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. It’s unclear, but that could mean by mid-September.