CALGARY — The Alberta government is expanding or opening trade offices on three continents to open up markets and reduce dependence on markets in the United States.
“We can no longer rely primarily on one customer for our resources, goods and services (exports),” Cal Dallas, the international and intergovernmental relations minister, announced at the University of Calgary on Friday.
“Eighty-six per cent of those resources went to one customer, the U.S.”
Dallas and Premier Alison Redford announced new foreign trade offices in California, Chicago, Brazil, Singapore and India.
It will also expand the current trade office in Beijing, co-locate its Shanghai office with the federal government, and establish a new office in the southern region of the country.
There is already an office in Hong Kong.
The offices, which will bring the total to 16, are to open over the next two years.
Alberta already has trade offices in London, Mexico City, Taipei, Tokyo, Munich, Washington, D.C., and Seoul.
Dallas said his department is reallocating some resources so that the new offices will only add $1.3 million a year to the current annual foreign office budget of $10.5 million.
Redford said the payoff will be long term.
“Markets do not get built overnight,” she said.
“You build trust, you build relationships, and you ensure that the products that you are exporting are products that are actually going to be acceptable to the market.
“Not doing this would be quite disadvantageous to the province.”
The opposition NDP has said such offices are poor value for money in a province that is already cutting funding to social programs and post-secondary education.
They call the trade offices little more than patronage rewards for supporters of Redford’s Progressive Conservative party.
Dallas has said there will be an open competition to select the representatives.
Dallas said the offices will have different mandates.
The California office, expected to be located around San Francisco, will build up links with the high-tech and computer industries around Silicon Valley.
Singapore, said Dallas, is a critical port for oil refining and a hub for Asian commerce.
He said there are broad opportunities in agriculture, energy and education through the office in New Delhi.
He called Chicago a key U.S. transportation hub, and said the Brazil office will take advantage of South American energy and agriculture growth.
In 2012, Alberta exported $95 billion worth of goods to 187 countries, accounting for more than one-third of the province’s GDP.
The government says in 2012, more than 640 Alberta companies worked through the province to broaden trade and investment abroad.