Saskatchewan has seen the second highest increase in population in the country since April. Brad Wall announced Sept. 29 that Saskatchewan’s population is up 16,000 to 1,045,622 and half of this growth has come from international migration. At a rate of 1.6 per cent annually, this population growth marks the biggest in a century and is a strong signal that the province is moving forward.
Wall, along with Stuart Bergman of Economic Development Canada, spoke about the Saskatchewan economy at the annual Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership conference in Saskatoon. Other strong signals for the Saskatchewan economy include its exporting numbers. Sales to Bangladesh have tripled in the last year, and Saskatchewan is responsible for 46 per cent of all Canadian exports to India.
Bergman pointed out that while Canada is in relatively good shape, our biggest trading partners, the U.S. and Europe, are in trouble. There are still five million excess housing units on the market in the U.S. and consumer confidence has only slightly improved from where it was during the recession. Worse, there are six unemployed Americans per job opening.
Although investors are on edge and banks are tightening up in Western markets, Bergman stated that the real long-term success of Saskatchewan exporters lies in making connections with developing markets such as Brazil, Russia, China, India, Mexico and Indonesia. It is difficult not to trade with the U.S., who represent the “low-hanging fruit” for Canadian exporters, but resisting this temptation to sell only to declining markets is key for future prosperity. Emerging markets offer much more exciting growth opportunities as well as long-term profit.
Saskatchewan is in a better position than other provinces to trade with these emerging markets, as they currently only export 60 per cent to the U.S. market. A surge in Saskatchewan fertilizer, oil and equipment exports will help the weakened agriculture industry. One reason Saskatchewan is well positioned is due to the fact that emerging markets like Pakistan and India have similar land and climate conditions that are ideal for agriculture. These countries are lining up to buy machinery from Canadian agriculture machinery firms, including those within Saskatchewan. As a result, the agricultural equipment industry is growing at a tremendous rate of 18 per cent per year. EDC forecasts Saskatchewan’s GDP to grow at a rate of seven per cent in 2011, with an additional nine per cent growth in 2012.
Wall also brought up the progress that the government has made internationally as part of the recent New West Partnership with British Columbia and Alberta. The NWP has been an important factor in Saskatchewan’s connections with emerging global markets because it gives the province a bigger representation in international discussions as a part of a very large region with many resources.
Wall and the NWP have had a lot of recent success with China and Japan, and now plan to target India. This international success was evident at the conference, as there were a number of delegates from numerous countries including China, India, Germany and Australia among others.
Wall noted that at the same time, we cannot forget about the U.S. and that the NWP is ensuring this relationship with Canada’s largest trading partner is kept healthy. Wall gave credit for Saskatchewan’s economic growth to the women and men in our province who are in the export business, including those within the STEP organization.
STEP is a government-industry partnership, formed in 1996 from the former Economic Development and Trade department, and is designed to promote the growth of Saskatchewan’s export industry. STEP assists provincial businesses to realize global marketing opportunities through specially tailored services and programs. Their yearly conference provides members with an economic update and forecast, as well as helpful workshops and keynote presentations.
The entire event took place over two days and was held at the Radisson Hotel.
image: Pete Yee