Meet Canada’s new International Trade Minister

francois-phillippe-champagneFrançois-Phillippe Champagne, a lawyer who’s worked for a string of major multinationals, Champagne knows the world of global trade—but says Canadians must reap the benefits at home.

Arguably the biggest promotion in today’s federal cabinet shuffle goes to François-Philippe Champagne, who vaults from parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, a supporting role just outside cabinet, to succeeding Chrystia Freeland in the high-profile post of minister of international trade.

I say “arguably” because an obvious case could be made that Freeland is, in fact, the key moving part in the shuffle. In taking over from Stéphane Dion as foreign minister, she notches up noticeably in prestige and profile. But Champagne, previously known only to attentive Ottawa insiders, in a single stride becomes an unignorable front-bench player for anyone watching federal politics.

This doesn’t come entirely as a surprise. Before he jumped into politics, Champagne held down serious jobs in international business. A lawyer, he was senior counsel and vice-president at ABB Group, a Swiss engineering giant, and then had a string of titles, including strategic development director, at AMEC, a big London-based project-management company focused on the energy sector. But he never hid his political ambitions, and returned to Shawinigan, Que., where he grew up (yes, in Jean Chrétien’s hometown) to win the Saint-Maurice-Champlain riding in the 2015 election.

Last month, before rumours of an imminent cabinet shuffle were much in the wind, I interviewed him at his office just off Parliament Hill. An upbeat, diminutive, and youthful 46, he riffed confidently on the challenges facing the Canadian economy.

And now that he’s taking over the trade portfolio, Champagne’s perspective on Canada’s position in the world economy is even more relevant. He sees plenty of room for improvement. For instance, he cited Australia and Britain as countries that do a better job selling themselves to international investors. Canada’s profile abroad is too often, he suggested, a fragmented one.

“I have been in a room in London where provinces were pitching against each other,” he said, recalling his days in the private sector. “I didn’t think, as a Canadian ex-pat, this really was the best way.” Champagne touted Morneau’s plan to create something called the Invest in Canada Hub, announced in last fall’s economic statement, as a step toward a “one-stop shopping” solution to marketing the national brand.

He argued the time is right for Canada to present itself more assertively, checking off the country’s selling points in an unsettled world. “Stability, predictability? Yes, you can see ahead. Rule of law? You know, if you build a plant here, 50 years from now it’s still going to be yours; you’re not going to have a change of regime. And you talk natural resources, low cost of electricity, fairly low cost of doing business, favourable tax rates.”

After Champagne waxed on for a while about Canada’s advantages as an open, trading economy, and a beacon for foreign investment, I asked if that vision remains politically viable in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit. Isn’t it likely that many Canadians, deep down, share the anxieties of English and American voters who responded last year to more protectionist, defensive rhetoric?

Champagne said that’s not what he hears in his own rural and small-town Quebec riding. He claims voters there, from truck drivers to lumber industry workers, tend to grasp that trade is essential to their livelihoods. But it’s crucial, he argued, for governments to make sure most people can see the benefits of liberal economic policy flowing their way.

So he cited measures from last spring’s budget, including the new Canada Child Benefit and the boost to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for lowest-income seniors. “People get it,” he said. “They see that, from the growth that we’re aspiring to achieve for the country, there is a piece of that for them.”

And he contrasted that with the discontent he noticed, back when he was based for five years in London, over how globalized trade and investment seemed to benefit only “a very discrete group” of the highly educated Brits. He added cautiously: “It’s not for me to talk about other countries, but I’m just talking from personal experience. You could see at some stage there was this imbalance.”

For Canada to avoid a Brexit-like backlash, the economy must keep generating wealth and spreading it around. Champagne agrees with economists who say that will be hard to sustain, since our workforce just isn’t expanding like it used to. “A lot of the growth in our country came after World War Two, with the influx of population from Europe, mainly. Then in the 1970s, women came to the workforce,” he said. “Now what we’re facing is that population in Canada is aging more than the world population.”

He said the federal policy response to the demographic crunch of more retired and few working-age Canadians can’t be merely incremental. “In an era of slow growth we need to have big, bold ideas,” he said. “We need to be ambitious.”

Up to now, Champagne has worked in Morneau’s shadow, helping develop policy ideas like the finance minister’s infrastructure bank and investment hub. Freeland showed, when she was finalizing Canada’s trade deal with the European Union, how a trade minister can make a mark—and secure a cabinet promotion. Now, Trudeau is giving Champagne his chance, and Ottawa has a key new player to watch.

Article originally published here

4 Ways Technology can Help you Grow Your International Business in 2017


With the new year on the horizon, you’re likely setting goals and outlining strategies for growing your business in 2017. As you plan to improve your business in the year ahead, you should look at some key technologies that can help you manage your customers, your data and your products.

1. Customer Relationship Management software

 Every business thrives on healthy customer service and customer relationships. When you’re dealing with clients across the globe, especially as you expand, it can be difficult to keep track of all of your contacts. That’s where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can help.

CRM software enables you to create a database of all of your contacts that can be accessed by any applicable members of your team.

With CRM software, you can store a complete record of all of your company’s interactions with clients or potential clients. You can set up your database to capture each individual’s order history, concerns, business and personal information, and all points of contact they have had with members of your team, including phone calls, emails and chats.

CRM software is especially helpful when dealing with businesses on an international scale. It will help you and your team track where customers are located along with the languages they speak, local customs that you and your team need to be aware of and any applicable trade rules or restrictions.

CRM software can help you serve customers better by staying on top of their needs, concerns and preferences. It can also help your team to operate more efficiently, cutting down on time spent searching for information, emails or files related to their customers.

2. Cloud computing

At this point most people have heard of cloud technology, and nearly everyone who uses a computer, tablet or smartphone has used “the cloud” in some way. While the technology has become ubiquitous, you might not be aware of how cloud technology can improve your business’s operations.

When using cloud technology, your company’s digital operations take place on off-site servers that can be accessed from anywhere.

This can be particularly beneficial to companies operating on a global scale whose employees travel frequently or work remotely.

By using cloud technology, an employee on the go can access files and software utilized by the company back at headquarters from anywhere. It also means that any traveling employees can remain connected to staff back at the home office, whether it’s filing reports, sharing data or communicating seamlessly across international borders.

3. Logistics

Tracking technology For companies that buy or sell internationally, logistics can be the most troublesome part of doing business. Executing, receiving and tracking shipments requires a lot of careful consideration and planning, and shipments that go awry can cost time, money and customers.

To help organizations tackle these tasks more efficiently, innovative new technology is becoming available. Logistics management systems can help bear the brunt of the burden of international shipping. They can help plan trade routes, monitor any trade restrictions or problem areas, and track shipments.

Logistics tracking technology can also be a major help in reworking disrupted routes to get your deliveries back on track.

Electronic shipment tracking is also evolving quickly to help meet businesses’ needs. Once cost prohibitive, radio frequency identification (RFID) devices have become more affordable and attainable for companies to implement. As the technology becomes more accessible, Bluetooth beacons provide another option for electronically tracking shipments.

As both RFID and Bluetooth beacons become more commonplace, businesses will be able to take advantage of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) in their supply chains, making it easier and more efficient to track and manage their goods.

4. Translation and language learning software and services

Language barriers can be a major challenge for global companies. It goes without saying that it’s crucial to be able to communicate effectively with customers, leads and business partners.

Web-based translation companies are improving their functions every day. They are sophisticated enough to translate and check your communications, at least for a first draft. While this technology has made great strides in recent years, it’s still advisable to have a fluent speaker or professional translator check your work to avoid any inaccuracies.

If you plan to do business with partners or customers in a region for an extended period of time, learning the language can save you money on translation costs, and it can help you provide better customer service.

To that end, there are plenty of reputable online programs and software that can help you become fluent in a foreign language.

As you plan to upgrade your business in 2017, don’t forget to explore all of the ways technology can help you grow, whether it’s by providing better customer service, keeping your employees connected, improving your logistics or helping you communicate with your customers.

Article by Jennifer Nesbitt originally printed here