The announcement that Manitoba will add their signature to an encompassing trade deal with western partners in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and B.C. is a tremendous step forward in the opinion of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.
The New West Partnership Agreement (NWPA), crafted in 2010, is trade agreement designed to enhance trade, investment, and labour mobility between the signatory provinces. Finally, with the inclusion of Manitoba, the partnership creates a common market of more than 11 million people, with a combined GDP of more than $750 billion. MCC has long advocated for Manitoba’s inclusion in the deal. Being part of this important trade agreement now opens provincial businesses to co-operate on trade and investment missions to international markets. To share foreign market intelligence to advance mutual interests and increase business competitiveness; enable provincial efforts to be coordinated to better attract investment and talent, as well as build critical mass; and be able to capitalize on a combined buying power through the joint procurement of goods and services.
The decision to finally sign on to the deal will also address an economic competitiveness imbalance that has left Manitoba shut out when it comes to bidding on several projects across western Canada, while their counterparts were able to make more efficient proposals. Over the last few years, several companies had complained about the scales being tipped in favour NWP partners, with several businesses in Manitoba becoming frustrated to learn corporations started stating explicitly in contact offers – for items ranging from trucks to fencing – that bids may be limited to provinces who were signed on to the partnership.
In the past, representatives of the Manitoba government indicated a reluctance to join the New West Partnership, stating a preference for a national agreement. However, progress on the more than 20-year-old National Agreement on Internal Trade remained so slow that five other provinces, containing the vast majority of the Canadian population, have proceeded with bi- and tri-lateral agreements. In addition to the BC, AB, and SK deal, there is the Ontario-Quebec Trade and Cooperation Agreement (OQTCA).
Our organization applauds the new government and especially Premier Pallister for understanding that being the only province not a part of at least one inter-provincial trade was impacting our business community and leaving Manitoba isolated from the rest of the country. Recognizing the potential economic impact by running against the current, this decision will be beneficial to help Manitoba business become further integrated into the national picture.
From an advocacy standpoint, MCC is happy to reach another policy achievement. Our resolution calling on Manitoba to join the NWPA is one of the oldest policies in our resolution book. To know that a solid business case was made through our meetings with government works to strengthen our approach as the “Voice of Manitoba Business.”