The government of Saskatchewan is opening three international offices across Asia to promote the province’s exports.
The permanent offices will be located in Tokyo, Singapore and New Delhi and are expected to open in early 2021.
The province currently has one trade office open in Shanghai, China.
“International offices, and a sustained international presence, are a key component of our strategy to grow Saskatchewan’s economy as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said.
“This engagement will be incredibly important, more so than before.”
Staff at the three offices will work full-time for the government of Saskatchewan to promote trade and economic interests on the ground in Japan, Asia Pacific and India.
“Having that long-term business relationships really do make a difference in business cultures that exist in Korea, Japan and other Asian countries where really it is important to have those long, engaged relationships,” Harrison said. “And that’s what we’re embarking on the process of doing.”
The government is paying Harper and Associates — headed up by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper — around $240,000 to assist the province with its goals. The contract is yearly, and is renewed annually.
Another $5 million is also budgeted to operate the three offices.
International offices are common among provinces in Canada, and are supported across party lines.
On Friday, opposition leader Ryan Meili agreed it was the right move to make for Saskatchewan’s economy, but questioned Harper’s involvement due a op-ed he penned for the Wall Street Journal saying governments will need to shrink after coronavirus.
“If that’s the kind of economic advice he’s going to be giving this government, I think we should spend $240,000 on Saskatchewan people and not padding the pockets of political friends of the Sask Party.”
The government’s involvement with Harper and Associates, Harrison said, has produced economic gains for the province.
Last year, the minister and Harper lobbied senior officials with the government of India to lower tariffs on Saskatchewan peas and lentils.
Harrison said the meeting resulted in the province temporarily reducing the tariff from 30 per cent to 10 per cent from June to August of this year.
Read more: Bill Kelly: Is a Harper comeback possible?
“That message was heard, and we saw a tariff policy that resulted in tens of millions of dollars in economic activity showing that sustained international engagement can really make a difference for our province,” Harrison said.
“We were in rooms that would not have been possible to be in because prime minister Harper was accompanying me and had personal relationships with the decision makers in India.”
According to the government of Saskatchewan, the province exports around 68 per cent of its produced products.
Total international exports in 2019 were valued at approximately $30 billion. Top exports include agriculture products, potash, oil and uranium.