Canada cuts red tape to lift maritime trade
WONG JOON SAN
Canada is doing its utmost to eliminate red tape in the maritime industry to enhance its economic strategies, Canadian commissioner Garrett Lambert says.
Mr Lambert said Canada's new Marine Act, introduced in parliament last Monday by Transport Minister Doug Anderson, responded to the shipping industry's concerns by consolidating the regulatory regime and reducing bureaucracy.
'This act and other government and commercial-sector initiatives will doubtlessly increase what is already good business for Canada, whose exports to Hong Kong rose 50 per cent in 1994 and another 50 per cent in 1995,' he told a Hong Kong Shipowners Association lunch last week.
Mr Lambert said exports were continuing to increase and for the first time, the trade surplus was in Canada's favour.
This was because both government and business were acting to make Canada's goods and services more attractive and more cost-effective than its competitors.
'As a result, capital investment is flowing into Canada, and exports are powering the Canadian economy,' he said.
'The second factor is unique to Hong Kong, in that more than 200,000 people travel between here and Canada each year, and they do business.' He added that the territory played an important part in Canada because of these human and economic connections.
While Canada had privatised Air Canada and Canadian National Railways, the country had tabled the Canada Marine Act in parliament last week to commercialise the marine transport sector, starting with its eight largest ports, he added.
Canada, which has 60,000 km of coastline and 3,000 km of inland waterways, has 541 ports.
While Hong Kong port handled 130 million tonnes of cargo last year, Canadian ports together handled about 400 million tonnes.
'Just as with airports, the government will withdraw from the direct operation of major harbours, and turn them over to boards of directors.
'It will also ensure that levels of taxation are fair and competitive.' Mr Lambert said national ports would not be subject to corporate taxes and the Labour Ministry was reviewing marine workforce issues and would make necessary changes to improve competitiveness.
The government also accepted the need to reduce pilotage costs, he added.
Vancouver, which was home to North America's second-largest ship-broking community, was also an excellent communications centre, Mr Lambert said.
He said after Vancouver was declared an International Maritime Centre with significant tax advantages to foreign-incorporated companies operating ships in international waters, about half the firms that moved to Vancouver were Canadian shipping firms which had been forced to register offshore to stay in business.
Seven out of 21 shipping companies that had shifted their domicile to Canada were from Hong Kong, Mr Lambert said.