Supporting Inter-Tribal Trade
The potential for inter-tribal trade between First Nations in Canada and Tribes in the United States is significant. But realizing that potential will not be easy as First Nations need to overcome the trade barriers that are in place between Canada and the U.S.
Cando has worked with the Inter-Tribal Trade and Investment Organization (IITIO) to reduce these barriers to trade and and increase opportunities.
The following are a series of articles with key players promoting inter-tribal trade.
Indigenous chapter in NAFTA “ignited” by IITIO
Wayne Garnons-Williams, president of the International Inter-tribal Trade and Investment Organization speaks at Cando National Conference in Fredericton in 2017.
By Shari Narine
Wayne Garnons-Williams, president of the International Inter-tribal Trade and Investment Organization, is not nervous about sitting on the sidelines as the United States and Mexico discuss Canada’s proposal to include an Indigenous chapter as part of the revised North American Free Trade Agreement.
“I have every faith in the government of Canada coming forward and really expressing the concepts that have been built,” said Garnons-Williams.
That confidence comes after working collaboratively for seven months with the federal department of Global Affairs and Minister Chrystia Freeland.
“We ignited the embers of Indigenous trade and commerce as part of an international agreement. We’ve helped lead the way in building this with the stakeholders and rights holders and Global Affairs, which has never been done before and the result, I think, is quite an impressive document,” he said.
The proposed Indigenous chapter has received support from the National Congress of American Indians, in the U.S., and the Traditional Authorities of the RioYaqui Pueblos of Sonora, Mexico, says Garnons-Williams, who will be discussing it with their respective government representatives.
Improved Conditions on Reserves is Tied to Economics
Wayne Garnons-Williams, president of the International Inter-tribal Trade and Investment Organization
By Shari Narine
With national Indigenous organizations focused on housing, health and the overall living conditions of its members, Indigenous commerce and trade has fallen upon economic organizations.
But Wayne Garnons-Williams, president of the International Inter-tribal Trade and Investment Organization, admits improved conditions on reserves is tied into economics.
“The youngest generation is the most educated and we’re seeing the progression of more and more business savvy, well-trained, well-educated Indigenous peoples wanting to set up their own businesses on reserve territory or on traditional territory and certifying themselves as Indigenous businesses,” said Garnons-Williams.
IITIO is working with those Indigenous businesses to get them trading with tribes in the United States. It’s easier to trade across the international border, says Garnons-Williams, than it is to carry out trade between provinces.
“Domestic intertribal trade is a real challenge,” he said. “Indigenous people are the victims when it comes to the barrier for interprovincial trade.”
Inter-tribal trade provides tribal, economic sovereignty
Wayne Garnons-Williams (left) with John Rocky Barrett, Chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma
By Shari Narine
Wayne Garnons-Williams is excited about the opportunities cross country inter-tribal trade offers for Canadian First Nations and American Tribes.
“I’m passionate about this because I believe tribal sovereignty really means economic sovereignty and the faster we can get First Nations to be as economically self-dependent as possible the more we can have that sovereignty within Canada and be able to say, ‘Federal government, thanks, but no thanks. We appreciate the offer of the money but we don’t want to go that way. We’d rather take our revenue and go this way,’” he said.
President of the International Inter-tribal Trade and Investment Organization headquartered in Ottawa, Garnons-Williams holds that the political climate is right for that kind of movement in Canada. Trudeau’s mandate letters to his Cabinet ministers made it clear that there was no priority more important than the nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples. One of the rights that the federal government is seriously examining, says Garnons-Williams, is the right to trade.
Domestic trade works hand-in-hand with inter-tribal trade, he says.
“But to get that done, the building blocks of trade have to be there,” said Garnons-Williams, who notes that First Nations are on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to economic development.
CPN foreign-trade zone ready for long term contracts
Jim Collard, director of planning and economic development with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, in Oklahoma, is excited about the possibilities a foreign-trade zone offers for his tribe.
By Shari Narine
“It is a unique way for tribes to engage in trade and so many of the tribes have been international traders for millennium. So really, international trade hasn’t been a new thing for tribes, but really it hasn’t been in the fore-thinking for the last few generations and this is an opportunity to go back to that lineage,” said Collard, who has his doctorate in in political economy.
A company located within a specially designated foreign-trade zone (also known as a free-trade zone) can bring in raw product, transform that product to create something new, and then ship it out of the country with no tariffs attached. However, if the final product remains within the United States, the tariff is assessed on either the final product or all the combined parts, whichever is lower.
“It’s a huge cost savings,” said Collard.
That was only one incentive that spurred Collard to push for FTZ designation for the Iron Horse industrial park, which is located on Native American trust land in Oklahoma. The industrial park, which measures 400 acres and which can be expanded, runs along the Union Pacific rail line, which links it to the Port of Houston and makes it an ideal spot for companies.
Cando to be “honest broker” in developing inter-tribal trade
Keith Matthew, Cando president
By Shari Narine
“We’re unfortunately at the whim of both of those governments,” said Keith Matthew, who is business consultant and also serves as president of Cando.
With the Canadian dollar still weaker than U.S. currency, exporting product to the U.S. is a golden opportunity that First Nations need to take advantage of. But, Matthew admits, First Nations need to get “export ready,” which means obtaining export licenses, figuring out the logistics of getting product to U.S. markets, and understanding how foreign-trade zones, in places like the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma, work.
“We need to understand the mechanics of taking our goods and services south of the border or even into Alaska if there’s opportunities there,” said Matthew.
Cando is in the early stages of examining inter-tribal trading between the Indigenous groups in Canada and Tribes in the U.S.
“We’re trying to facilitate those discussions and help our communities access new markets,” said Matthew.
He suggests that the best practises of First Nations, Metis and Inuit businesses, who are already undertaking inter-tribal trade, need to be adopted by other Indigenous communities. These successful businesses should be viewed as leaders.
Strong economic development plans required to move forward with FTZs
Ray Wanuch, executive director of Cando
By Shari Narine
Ray Wanuch, executive director of Cando, doesn’t mince words when he talks about inter-tribal trade.
“The end goal is huge,” he said. “Free-trade zones create jobs, gets us into the economy. I think it’s part and parcel of Indigenous people producing their share of the gross domestic product.”
FTZs would be custom free with no duties and allow the exchange of goods between Canada and the United States.
But as good an opportunity as that presents, there are challenges - even just within Canada.