In Brief: AIMS acting president Charles Cirtwill applauds an effort to establish trade links with India. He says it’s about time, but also suggests it’s going to take more than one trade mission to establish solid links.

Trade Delegation led by ACOA minister pushes Atlantic Gateway on mission

by David Shipley 

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Minister Peter MacKay is heading a trade mission that is pitching the Atlantic Gateway to Indian business and government leaders.

MacKay, along with provincial government ministers and senior executives with private transportation interests from the Atlantic provinces, is in India this week to talk about trade opportunities using the Atlantic region’s ports as the gateway to the North American market.

“We’ve been conveying clearly and consistently the sharp business proposition for the Atlantic Gateway,” said MacKay during a telephone interview from New Delhi after his first full day in the country.

New Brunswick Transportation Minister Denis Landry is among the provincial ministers accompanying MacKay on the trip. Executives from The Greater Moncton Airport Authority, the Saint John Port Authority, J.D. Irving, Limited and Armour Transportation Systems are also part of the trade mission.

MacKay said the Atlantic Gateway offers Indian firms a closer and more efficient way to move their goods to the North American market.

“The [Atlantic Gateway] is 500 miles and 36 hours sailing time closer to the Suez Canal than New York,” said MacKay. “What this translates into is a timelier access into the North American market.”

The ACOA minister said goods landing in the Atlantic Gateway are 48 hours away from half the population of North America.

The Atlantic Gateway Strategy aims to attract container traffic travelling from Asia via the Suez Canal to Atlantic Canada. Using the region’s ports, cargo can be sent on to North American markets by road, rail or short-sea shipping, depending on which option offers the best combination of price and speed.

MacKay said the Atlantic Gateway is about more than just attracting cargo to one major port.

“We’re pitching the whole region’s port, both air linkages and ports on the water, so it certainly includes the Port of Saint John, the Port of St. John’s, Halifax and Melford.”

Melford is the site of a proposed container port on the Strait of Canso in Nova Scotia.

MacKay said the trade mission to India would be followed in the near future by a visit to Atlantic Canada by Indian government and business leaders.

“We’re entering a very competitive period in India’s growth,” he said. “Other countries have been here longer, quite frankly, and had a more active presence, so we have to step up or elevate our game.”

Charles Cirtwill, acting president of the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a long-time proponent of the Atlantic Gateway, said it’s “about time” the region launched a serious effort to establish trade links with India.

Cirtwill cautioned, however, that it would take more than reciprocal trade visits to establish solid economic links.

“While they are there I hope they are opening 10 or 15 permanent offices,” said Cirtwill.

“We need to build some permanent relationships over there. The Port of Halifax has started that by opening one office, but that’s one office for over a billion people.”