Taking care of business

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Organization “building bridges” to improve economic climate

I’m over at the elegant Palliser Hotel sitting with Alice Gardner-Boreta, James Rowling and Brian Sinclair of the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada (AmCham Canada) and just about fall off my chair when they tell me AmCham’s international arm now has a chapter in Iraq.

That war-torn nation hardly seems a place one would expect this world wide business organization to open up a branch.

Yet AmCham has 103 chapters in diverse countries around the world working to promote trade links and open doors to chambers of commerce in the U.S. and Washington. “We’ll go where there are opportunities to develop business links,” says Rowling.

Sinclair frequently invites me to AmCham functions and finally convinced me to get away from confrontational politics for a time and write about something positive.

“It’s a top-notch organization, with chapters in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, and in Canada its honorary president is American Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins.

AmCham organized the farewell dinner for Wilkins predecessor, Paul Cellucci. “That’s the kind of influence we have,” explains executive director Gardner-Boreta, who at one time was executive director of the American Business Council in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, which she describes as a “strange and fascinating country” in which 7,000 Americans work.

With $1.5 billion in trade between Canada and the U.S. every day, it was surprising to learn AmCham has been in Calgary for just three years. The reason? “We have the same language, a similar culture, many social ties, and open trade policies so it didn’t really seem necessary.”

But then the growing U.S. thirst for Canadian oil and natural gas helped spur the need for a branch here.

Also, serious trade problems such as the ban on Canadian beef do crop up, and AmCham has the ear of influential senators and congressmen.

“When issues come up that concern Canadian business and industry, such as taxation disputes or policy positions, we can bundle them up and present them to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” explains Rowling, chairman of AmCham’s regional board.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a powerful organization.

“We’re focused on building bridges with Canadian business and industry, and with business associations, to better the economic climate in both our nations and increase prosperity,” says Sinclair, who runs his own company, Sinclair Investigation Services Ltd.

Sinclair, who is a driving force in AmCham in Calgary, is a Canadian, while Gardner-Boreta hails from New York and Rowling is from Detroit.

As well as being a pipeline for Canadian companies and business groups to their counterparts or the higher levels of government in the U.S., AmCham (www.amchamcanada.ca) is also a useful networking organization.

In business, as in so many other areas of life, contacts matter.


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