Foreign Trade Zone Designation Sought for Windsor-Essex Region

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Windsor Star/Dalson Chen

As a hub for international trade that’s trying to attract foreign and domestic investment, it seems a no-brainer that a certain border region should be named a Foreign Trade Zone.

We’re talking, of course, about Niagara Falls. Last week, the federal government officially designated the Niagara region an FTZ point — the first designation of its kind in Ontario.

According to a release, the designation establishes Niagara Falls as a “one-stop shop” for programs meant to help export-related businesses.

Duty deferrals, duty refunds, customs and tax exemptions and more are included in FTZ programming.

Additionally, a task force of federal, provincial, and municipal representatives will meet regularly with Niagara region industry exporters.

In the announcement, the Government of Canada pointed to the Niagara region’s plans to leverage its “central position, high-quality infrastructure, favourable business environment, and world-renowned location.”

“The (designation) is an integral part of a greater strategy for economic prosperity in this region, intended to grow employment, boost the local economy, and increase opportunities for export,” said Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey.

If you’re wondering “What about Windsor-Essex?” — you’re not alone.

Rakesh Naidu, interim CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, said a similar initiative is underway to have our region also recognized as an FTZ point.

“We’ve been working on it for almost a year now,” Naidu said. “We’ve met all the requirements, all the conditions. All the applications that we need to fill, we have got them done and sent.”

The matter is now under review by Navdeep Bains, federal minister of innovation, science, and economic development.

Naidu said WEEDC is optimistic about “a very positive outcome.”

“I think, very soon, we should be hearing some news … Maybe in the next couple of months.”

Regarding the benefits of the FTZ designation, Naidu said it would result in cost-saving, business-growing programs from six different government agencies being accessible through one local office.

A person could think of many ways such programs would help Windsor-Essex — “importers, exporters, our retail sector, manufacturing, transportation logistics, agribusiness, and so on,” Naidu said.

“There are many programs that exist but are not being tapped.”

Even the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation would benefit. Naidu said the FTZ office would likely be managed out of WEEDC’s location.

Asked why Windsor-Essex hasn’t already been named an FTZ point, Naidu said the designation was created about a decade ago, but has only risen to attention within the past five years.

When it’s suggested that it’s a no-brainer for Windsor to be so recognized, Naidu replied: “You’re right. That’s the reason why we’re working on it, and keeping our fingers crossed.”