The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal launches an appeal to curb rising protectionismViewpoint by Michel Leblanc

Text signed by Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and published in the Métro on February 4 and in The Gazette on February 5, 2009.

February 5, 2009

The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal launches
an appeal to curb rising protectionism

Protectionism is the single biggest threat to both the global economy and to our city. Closing borders is in itself enough to transform the current recession into a deep depression. This is especially true for Quebec, where more than half of the GDP is fuelled by exports, 75% of which are U.S. bound.

This is why the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal has taken the initiative to make its U.S. counterparts aware of the situation and to ask them to intervene. We must work together to prevent the re-emergence of protectionist measures. Everyone must get involved, beginning with our elected officials and including the business, academic and artistic communities.

We must spread the anti-protectionist message already voiced by many, far and wide. It is not enough to convince President Obama to adopt a more moderate stance on this matter; we also have to convince a Democratic Congress to abandon its protectionist thinking.

This is where we come in. Year in, year out, the Board of Trade provides over 1,500 companies with export support and coaching. We also host many U.S. trade delegations to help boost trade between our respective economies.

We know how important free trade is to cities whose development revolves around knowledge-based economies and exporting. This situation applies not only to Montréal and its Canadian counterparts but to our U.S. neighbours as well.

We need to win the support of our U.S. partners. Even a city like Pittsburgh, known as the “Steel City” could lose in the protectionist game. Thanks to its strong environmental technology sector, Pittsburgh is weathering the recession better than many other cities. The reason for its success is its ability to access foreign markets and investments. Pittsburgh is therefore a potential ally in the fight against protectionism.

As such, the Board of Trade will carry on with the mobilization of its urban allies south of the border. We will contact other chambers of commerce to express our point of view and impress upon them our common interests. We encourage our members to do the same, as well as anyone in the Montréal community who has dealings with the U.S. Everyone must rally around this issue.

President Obama's recent declarations are obviously a good sign that he does not intend to adopt protectionist measures. Nonetheless, it is in our best interest to maintain the pressure and make sure that the global consensus on this issue remains a strong one.

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