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UNB expert pitches regional economic development to federal provincial ministers

Author: Communications

Posted on Sep 11, 2013

Category: myUNB , UNB Fredericton

Dr. Marc Duhamel is the new Vaughan Chair in Regional Economics at the University of New Brunswick.Dr. Marc Duhamel, Vaughan chair in regional economics and director of the Policy Studies Centre at the University of New Brunswick's department of economics, shared his ideas on regional economic development with federal, provincial and territorial ministers last week at the 18th Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie.

John Chilibeck of the Times & Transcript, covered the event. See the full article below.

To arrange a media interview, please contact Kelsey Seymour.

French-language trade urged
Times & Transcript (Moncton)
Fri Sep 6 2013
Byline: John Chilibeck

It has become de rigueur for Canadian leaders to visit nations with emerging economies such as China and India to drum up business, but one prominent researcher believes Premier David Alward should consider adding Belgium or perhaps Switzerland to his travels.

Marc Duhamel, an economics professor and director of the Policy Studies Centre at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and a former professor at l'Université de Moncton, argues that francophone communities in the province could benefit from more trade with other French-speaking places, both in Canada and abroad.

"There's this false perception that when you're talking about business and trade it's just like money - it has no odour, colour or language.

"But research shows over the last 30 years a significant positive impact for trade when the two sides share a common language," the academic said in an interview earlier this week.

Duhamel took his message directly to decision-makers on Thursday in Winnipeg, where the 18th Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie was being held.

As one of the speakers, the professor spoke to several high-ranking officials from across Canada, including New Brunswick deputy premier Paul Robichaud, who has already travelled to French-speaking countries in his official capacities.

His talk stressed the importance of promoting entrepreneurship in francophone communities, an idea that should spark interest in northern New Brunswick, where many of the province's 240,000 native French speakers live and whose economy is moribund, with some places suffering an unemployment rate of 20 per cent or higher.

"The earlier you invest in the human capital, the more significant outcomes you're going to get in terms of business returns," he said. "If you build an entrepreneurial human capital in these francophone minority communities across Canada, this could have a greater impact on their economic sustainability."

The data, he says, shows that seven per cent of trade costs involves translation and language issues, a significant amount in a competitive environment. In Canada alone, nine million of a population of 33 million - nearly one in three people - speak French.

With 29 countries using French as an official language and 57 member states and governments part of La Francophonie, where the Romance language is spoken by up to 300 million people, the trade possibilities are considerable.

"There's a lot of talk about doing trade missions to China and India, to stir up entrepreneurial opportunities in Mandarin or (Hindi), but the lower-hanging fruit for francophones in New Brunswick would be other French-speaking places."

Alward has gone on two trade missions to China, including one last September with several other Canadian premiers. On that mission, he lead 13 New Brunswick companies that were interested in boosting trade, including several from French-speaking places such as Groupe Savoie of Saint-Quentin and Edmundston's Prima Innovations Inc.

The latest Canadian leader to depart for the Far East is Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who's travelling to China on Friday to promote her province's oil and gas industry.

Duhamel isn't against the idea of trading more with countries with emerging economies, he just doesn't want obvious opportunities overlooked.

"For francophone entrepreneurs in northern New Brunswick, trade missions to places like Louisiana, which has French roots and shares the Napoleonic legal code, or Switzerland or Belgium, would probably give them a more significant competitive advantage than anglophone or non-French-speaking export markets."