Omar Allam is a former Canadian diplomat. He currently serves as chief executive officer and founder of Allam Advisory Group
As Canada looks for ways to attract more foreign investment (FDI) and boost its economy, it is preparing for a busy year ahead of investor-friendly reforms.
Canada is set to introduce a one-stop service for attracting brown field and green field investments in key sectors of the economy, attracting top global talent by loosening immigration rules, and establishing a Canada infrastructure bank mandated to invest in a 10-year, $35-billion plan. And, on Thursday, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke to a crowd of business executives and foreign-trade specialists in Montreal on the $218-million investment organization she announced in December. While the speech was largely a recap of Canada's achievements, the importance of this initiative shouldn't be underestimated.
Canada must approach this investment project head-on, with a sophisticated and equally balanced international export and investment strategy. The hub must involve participation with the private sector from day one, combined with results-focused actions with the provinces and municipalities to attract FDI while promoting Canadian exports overseas with a focus on high-growth emerging economies.
The NBA's Golden State Warriors epitomize how to cultivate and run a championship franchise that is built for both current and future success, having gone from a laughingstock to league champs. The team was constructed from a top-down and bottom-up perspective, and this winning culture was executed to perfection under new leadership. The Warriors win games and prevail because of how they execute their playbook, forcing opponents to follow suit or at least try to keep up.
Against wily competitors such as China, Germany, the United States and Britain, it's unrealistic to assume that Canada can tap into foreign investment and know-how to build a powerful, export-oriented economy and rapidly expanding middle class if we simply run a few plays, no matter how well designed.
These are some of the key fundamentals that Canada should include in an updated international-trade game plan:
Build up Team Canada: Playing the right way means playing unselfishly. Respect each other, play hard, fulfill your role and care about the team more than anything individually. Solving problems in Canada's complex international-trade relations requires a sustained and comprehensive approach that isn't just focused on quick wins. In order to avoid launching various global-trade initiatives that aren't connected with the realities and challenges facing Canadian exporters, we need to undertake a non-partisan, third-party review of trade and investment services delivered by the federal government.
Work with other trading partners: Competition makes us faster; collaboration makes us better. Signing the Canada-European Union free-trade deal highlighted Canada's increased credibility in international trade. Canada can leverage its influence by continuing to pursue a strong market-opening trade agenda and by assuring that the Trudeau government can roll-up its sleeves and work with Canadian companies to access high-growth markets.
Spend wisely on trade resources: To make a competitive leap, teams will often increase their payroll to sign needed free-agent talent. Ottawa should explore additional ways to leverage current government resources and use the considerable expertise of private sector trade experts who routinely support international trade and foreign policy initiatives to advance Canadian trade. Additionally, the CanExport program needs a new innovative business model that provides an increase in funding and different forms of financing for small firms, realistic criteria for companies that export less than $200,000 in a year and not restrict funding to Canadian exporters with a 24-month cap in a given market.
Pressures are building on many fronts – a U.S. Trump presidency, crisis in Syria and climate change. The world is watching Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Canada is one country that could lead the modernization of the international system.
It's time for Canada to step up its game and win a fairer and more beneficial trading relationship in global markets where our companies can compete successfully. To do this, Ottawa and the private sector need to work together to come up with an updated, comprehensive Canadian export and investment game plan that we can execute so Canada will be able to stand its ground around the globe.