Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Quebec-New Hampshire Business Partnership

The news of a partnership agreement between the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire and the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec serendipitously coincided with plans I had developing to build a business profile for myself on the basis of my own cross-border connections. This parallel seemed to me to demand that I look into it more deeply and was almost certainly the catalyst that eventually led me to decide this blog should exist.

This agreement, signed in Concord this past May, established an international partnership between these two non-governmental business groups with the somewhat vague goals to support cooperation in regards to trade, transportation, tourism, energy, the environment, technological innovation and cross-border relationships. In fact, the only concrete measures laid out in the agreement were to meet annually and to link to one another's websites.

While this may seem quaint at first, it's notable to consider that Canadian trade in general has been jilted by the United States at large by the long-standing softwood lumber dispute, the tariffs of which New Hampshire forestry has surely benefited, and that, in spite of this climate, this agreement was initiated on the part of Québec. So through this lens, it appears that this deal, however symbolic in its early stages, must be important enough to tolerate a little swallowing of pride on the North side of the border.

However I must temper this pride and humbly point out that New Hampshire is not the sole prize Québec seeks for its trade. This agreement is part of a larger project being shepherded by the very governmental Québec Delegation in Boston to open up all of New England as one of the province's major trade corridors. It began in 2006 when the FCCQ signed a remarkably similar agreement with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and, while Massachusetts is clearly an agreement they covet for its large economy and population, France Dionne, the delegate general in Boston, says they intend to take it all the way to Connecticut.

That said, I think Granite State Yankois can take particular pride in the fact that the state's representative to this event, George Bald, the commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, showcased one of our state's most compelling cases for Québec to do business with us by speaking at the ceremony in the unfaltering French of his upbringing. Hopefully that gesture left an impression that sticks with his Québécoise counterpart, as I suspect that the chances are fairly low that the highest trade officer in each of the remaining New England states, except perhaps Maine, will be able to show off like that.

Although perhaps we could have laid on the charm a little more: they stilled haven't added our link to their website!

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