Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ottawa closing Winnipeg's International Trade office

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WORD the federal government will be closing its Winnipeg office of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is leaking out, just as Winnipeg's application for membership in the World Trade Centers Association enters the home stretch.

A Winnipeg contingent will be in San Diego next week for the final presentation in the WTC application process.

The seven-person International Trade office has served as the clearinghouse for all sorts of trade activity initiated by Manitoba companies. Although the department would not confirm Friday the office is closing, Caitlin Workman, a spokeswoman for the department in Ottawa, said in an email, "We're keeping regional offices open where it makes the most sense and reducing duplication of services by other government departments and agencies."

But several sources confirmed staff had received notices and the office is to close next April.

It is part of the Harper government's cost-cutting initiative. Other domestic International Trade offices are rumoured to be closing as well as some of Canada's international commercial consulates.

The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce has been leading the efforts to establish a World Trade Center in Winnipeg.

Dave Angus, president of the chamber, said he's heard about the closing of the International Trade office. "It means the timing of the World Trade Centers application could not be better," he said. "We need to have an international-trade presence to get results. We need to get the Manitoba story out there."

He said the WTC brand will be another reason for Winnipeg to be taken seriously.

Earning membership in the WTC gives access to a network of facilities around the world. The New York-based organization maintains a detailed library of trade and commercial data on just about every country on earth along with up-to-date training materials pertinent to companies seeking intelligence on how to do business in those markets.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2012 B4

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