Canada: hemisphere trade

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Persuading the Canadian government to push for greater sales in long-neglected Latin American export markets has been the stock- in-trade of two of Canada's newest and most successful international trade associations.

In a country where trade associations usually shun heavy US-style lobbying, the 11- year-old Canadian Association-Latin America and the Caribbean (CALA), and the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce, both based in Toronto, have prodded the Canadian government to increase hemispheric trade.

Instead of making annual pitches to government or responding automatically to every federal budget announcement, which is common practice with more established groups such as the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, the two associations work hand- in-glove with the government to push trade and technology to Latin America.

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Last spring, for instance, CALA and the Canadian government's Department of Industry, Trade, and Commerce cooperated closely in planning the visit of Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo to Canada. The purpose of the trip was to cement a series of agreements between the two countries, offering Mexican oil for Canadian technology.

And last October, Canada's Departments of External Affairs (Foreign Office) and Industry, Trade, and Commerce ordered home nearly all of Canada's ambassadors and high commissioners to Latin American and Caribbean Commonwealth nations (30 in all), to take part in CALA's eighth and largest annual conference to date, in Toronto.

Meetings and conferences of the Brazil- Canada Chamber of Commerce started in 1973. Similar meetings are held in Brazil through the Canadian organization's sister body, Camara do Comercio, Brasil-Canada. Canada's busy embassy in Brasilia and recently elevated consulate generals in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are also involved with both organizations.

The result of these many Brazilian contacts was a record $1 billion in two-way trade between Brazil and Canada in 1980.

The success of the two organizations is a results to a large degree of their two dynamic executive directors. CALA's executive director, is Bolivian-born Keith O. Hillyer, engineer and trilingual son of Baptist missionary parents. He has increased corporate membership from about 147 firms when he joined three years ago to 246 at present.

These include such giants as the large Canadian banks which are already well-connected throughout the Americans to new and aggressive engineering consulting firms, food processors, and communications specialists all eager to enter Latin american markets.

The other leader, Louis Bourgeois, executive director of the Brasil-Canada Chamber of Commerce, is not only one of Canada's most competent public relations executives but a retired brigadier general of the Canadian Armed Forces where he ran their information services.

This background has come in handy when dealing with a country ruled by Army generals and where many retired senior officers are in business themselves.

In October, CALA VIII, the eighth annual CALA conference, drew about 450 government and industry experts from both Canada and Latin american countries. Some of these nations, such as Marxist Cuba and Chile's rightist military regime , are ideologically opposed.

Another reason for the two associations' success is that Canada, as a "neutral ground" politically, can easily sell to Marxist and military governments at the same time. Moreover, CALA has persuaded officials of these disparate countries to participate jointly in conference sessions, which they will not do during international meeting in the US or Latin America.

Lately, both organizations have experienced growing opposition form activist and left-wing church and academic groups. The groups charge that the organization's aggressive promotional activities and the powerful support of branch plant members of US and European multi-national corporations in Canada have swung the Canadian government away from concern for human rights to selling Canadian goods and services to the hemisphere.

In October, CALA VIII was picketed by these groups, who protested both the appearance of an Argentine Cabinet minister on the program and further sales of Canadian nuclear reactors to the Argentine military regime.

Canada's overseas trade thrust is now in the hands of International Trade Minister Ed Lumley, himself a former business executive and ex-mayor of the St. Lawrence Seaway city of Cornwall, Ont. His first speech as minister was to a CALA luncheon.

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