Where Trump Irritates, Canada Sees a Chance to Lure Investment

(Bloomberg) -- Canada should take advantage of fraught relations between the U.S. and nations including China to lure capital and skilled workers, according to the chairman of a new agency tasked with attracting foreign capital.

While Canada can’t ignore tax cuts that have given the U.S. a fiscal edge over its northern neighbor, it can benefit from the trade battles the Trump administration has initiated with China and other countries and from growing restrictions on immigration visas, Invest in Canada Chairman Mitch Garber said. Canada’s advantages include welcoming immigration policies, an educated workforce, low crime and government stability, he said.

The Trump administration has provided a unique window for foreign direct investment in Canada, Garber told the business community at a event in Montreal Tuesday. “That window won’t be open for the rest of our lives but it’s open now.”

Canadian business groups have called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address weakening competitiveness, which is showing in tepid foreign direct investment. Invest in Canada was created earlier this year and Finance Minister Bill Morneau is expected to announce targeted measures to spur competitiveness when releasing a budget update next week.

While he’s all but ruled out an across-the-board cut to the tax rate on business income, companies have indicated they’d welcome other steps such as an accelerated write-off allowance on capital investment and increased deductibility of interest payments.

Garber, a Montreal businessman who’s also chairman of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, said Canada’s new fast-track visa approval process has responded to one of investors’ top concerns over the pace of bureaucratic procedures. He plans to step up marketing spending to have Canada represented in all major international conferences where investors mingle.

“We understood we need to be more entrepreneurial, and faster” he told reporters after the event at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations. “If you are competing with someone who needs two weeks to do something and you need six weeks, you’re going to lose.”

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