West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is today leading a trade delegation to Toronto to secure job creating investment and ensure Birmingham businesses have access to the Canadian markets post-Brexit.
The Conservative Mayor will be joined by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner for the visit where they will meet both the British Consul General and Canadian officials involved in international trade and investment.
Canadians are already major investors in the region; The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owns a 48 per cent share in Birmingham Airport and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is 50 per cent owner of both the Grand Central Shopping Centre and has a £150 million stake in the first phase of the new Paradise office development on the former Central Library site.
And it is thought that there is more interest in trade opportunities between Toronto and the West Midlands.
Mr Street said: “Latest figures show that UK goods and service exports to Canada were worth £8.1 billion and as CETA, an EU-Canada free-trade agreement comes into force, we must ensure that West Midlands businesses will be able to continue to access the Canadian market post-Brexit.”
A pledge to lead a major international trade delegation within his first 100 days in office was included in the mayor’s election manifesto and is being delivered two weeks ahead of his deadline.
Mr Street said that there are three parts to his visit.
“Firstly I’m going to meet the mayor of Toronto. We are beginning to establish a bit of a network. Secondly a number of Canadian Pension Funds have heavy investments in the region and, when I met the Canadian High Commissioner a few weeks ago she told me there are further investments.
“And thirdly there is pure trade, representing the region’s businesses.”
He said that pension funds have become particularly keen on backing infrastructure projects as they like low risk, long term investments and he wants to explore that to draw in further backing for developments across the region.
Mr Faulkner said: “As Brexit become a reality, the Chamber’s International Hub is stepping up its drive to encourage and help our businesses to export.
“North American will become an even more vital market for us to explore and our visit to Canada will serve as a useful follow-up to the meaningful talks the Chamber’s British American Business Council had in Chicago recently.”
The delegation will attend a briefing with Kevin McGurgan, the British Consul General and Director General at the Department of International Trade Canada.
This will be followed by meetings with key Canadian business leaders, including Tim Sluys, CEO of Co-founder of Bridge Wireless Solutions, Pavi Binning, special adviser to Weston Group, one of North America’s largest food processing and distribution groups.
The delegation will also meet David J McFadden QC, counsel in the Toronto offices of Gowling WLG, one of the city’s top business law firms which works with many of the world’s leading organisations to solve their business problems.
They will also be holding talks with Allan O’Dette, the chief investment officer at the Ontario Investment Office.