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True North Free Trade Forum

British Columbia (B.C.) is a prime investment location with rich natural resources and a skilled, educated workforce that is committed to innovation and sustainability. The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted global trade and halted economies around the world, including B.C. The disruption of global supply chains has highlighted the need to explore increasing internal trade and to strength economic cooperation among provinces and territories to lay the foundation for a strong revitalization of our economy.

In March 2021, Trade and Invest British Columbia participated in the inaugural True North Free Trade Forum, organized by the Government of Ontario. The event had two components: targeted business matchmaking sessions and a two-day program comprised of keynote speakers, business panels and a virtual trade show. The keynote speakers featured were Stephen Poloz, former Governor of the Bank of Canada, and Mark J. Barrenechea, CEO of OpenText. Poloz remarked on how dismantling trade barriers for provinces would benefit the Canadian economy as a whole and offered recommendations on how governments can support economic growth once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, including recreating a free trade zone and investing in infrastructure.

The reception was remarkable, with over 900 participants echoing the need for more interprovincial trade. There were over 80 British Columbia companies and government representatives virtually attending the event, with welcoming remarks from the Honorable George Chow, Minister of State for Trade. Notable B.C. companies included Save-On-FoodsChoices MarketKardium Inc.1QBit and Starfish Medical. The sessions and panels provided companies with the latest industry trends, business insights and opportunities from targeted regional markets across Canada. The two days of live streaming also covered interprovincial and territorial trade and current, local market conditions. Industry experts were also sharing their business insights and opportunities for targeted regional markets across Canada. Although the forum focused on three major sectors: energy, agrifoods and health and life sciences, the panel speakers also touched on technology, supply chain, logistics and transportation.

British Columbia’s rich resources have a lot to offer with pan-Canada trade. B.C.’s wood products in 2020 account for 41% of Canada’s total wood products exports. Our province’s fish product exports make up 20.4% of Canada’s total fish product exports in 2020. Furthermore, British Columbia is an expert in supply chain management and logistics, with six airports, including Vancouver International Airport, ranked as the best airport in North America last year. More than 98% of the electricity generated in B.C. comes from clean or renewable resources. Coupled with a multitude of initiatives to advance the clean tech sector, B.C. has a lot to offer the growing demand for low-carbon products and pollution-reducing technologies.

By connecting businesses from coast to coast, the event hoped to help Canadian companies expand their reach and market within Canada. While the pandemic magnified gaps in the economy, the provinces came together under a united goal to stride towards a strong economic recovery. This fully virtual experience transcended obstacles of time zones and travel to bring together industry experts and businesses eager to expand their markets. To get notifications about Trade and Invest BC events and activities, follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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