By Stephanie Kukkonen 

Atlantic Canada needs to place competition aside and start co-operating — engaging in some healthy “co-opetition”, if you will.

Co-opetition was the word of the day at the Moncton Rotary Club luncheon yesterday. Karen Oldfield, chief executive officer of the Port of Halifax, explained to Rotarians how its meaning could help the Atlantic Canadian trade economy.

“It’s co-operation first and competition second,” said Oldfield. “We need to work together to attack the real competition, like New York, Shanghai and bigger places.”

Oldfield went on to explain how the Port of Halifax is the region’s gateway for businesses to import and export necessary commodities. She says the combination of Halifax’s port and Moncton’s entrepreneurial atmosphere is the perfect pairing to get Atlantic Canada on the map in world trade.

“Every time I come to Moncton I am struck by the can-do attitude of the city. You have the businesses with the cargo that is going through the port. We need to build on the strength of that corridor.”

Despite a decline in trade between Atlantic Canada and northern Europe, Oldfield says we have to set our sights on India as a major partnership in importing and exporting, particularly via the Suez Canal.

“India is the world’s fastest growing market,” she says. “It has 17 per cent of the world’s population and the Suez Canal is only 1,840 nautical miles away from the Port of Halifax. That’s closer than any western port and India’s trade with Canada is less than one per cent.”

In an effort to increase trade relations between Canada and India, the Port of Halifax has opened offices in the cities of Mumbai and New Delhi. It has partnered with the GENA and Company Global Logistics, and even has Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald talking about a possible trip to India to establish a more personal relationship.

Developing a trade economy is something Oldfield knows will take some time, but she says that while co-opetition may not be a word to use in Scrabble, it is the key to the growth of Atlantic Canada’s trade economy.

“We have a lot of work to do and we definitely need to work together to get to where we want to be,” she says. “There is no shortcut to success, just a lot of hard work and heavy lifting.”