As appeared on page A6


It’s been half a year since conference delegates in Saint John mapped out some of the opportunities that could be realized by greater regional co-operation.

Recently, the idea of “Atlantica” has come under attack by those who feel its emphasis on improving transportation in the region is misplaced. But the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council begs to differ. In a report released last week, APEC argues that the full implications of changes in global trade have yet to be realized in the region. There are plenty of opportunities for growth in sea shipping, ground transport and air cargo.

The idea that Atlantic Canada could become a major importer of Asian goods to North America is not new. But the longer West Coast ports remain congested with container traffic, the better the opportunities for Atlantic Canada become. As APEC’s report notes, the Port of Halifax is operating at 50 per cent capacity. With the proper expansion plan and improvements to regional highways and border crossings, Halifax could become the East Coast gateway to container goods arriving from Europe and the Far East.

Halifax is already the largest port in Atlantic Canada and the third largest in the country. As talk of an Atlantic Gateway gains credence in the United States, Halifax is emerging as the most likely candidate for expansion. The full potential of such a superport is unknown, as is the potential for smaller ports, such as Saint John, to benefit from subsidiary traffic. But the goal is there, and it will require a co-ordinated effort from the Atlantic provinces and the federal government to make the Atlantic Gateway a reality.

Another area of transportation that holds great potential is air cargo. While sea ports handle high-volume shipping, airports are increasingly handling the high-value shipping, including all express shipping. In the United States, regional air cargo hubs have become the economic equivalent of inland ports.

New Brunswick could capitalize on this trend, and others – but to do so, politicians and business leaders must take the time to familiarize themselves with what is going on in the wider world. The success of Atlantica depends on reaching traders in other parts of the globe.