As one of his final activities before leaving Atlanta, Brian Oak, Canada’s consul general for the Southeast, sorted medical equipment on a Saturday morning for shipment abroad by Medshare International.
The Atlanta-based charity collects medical supplies and equipment from hospitals, medical distribution companies and individuals and redistributes them to qualified health care facilities. It has sent supplies to 78 countries since sending its first 40-foot shipping container 10 years ago to Costa Rica.
In his invitation to friends and acquaintances to join him at the MedShare’s distribution center in Decatur, he called his volunteer work over the past four years of service in the Southeast, one of his and his wife Lydia’s greatest “personal pleasures.”
“We hope that whatever increased exposure is afforded MedShare’s mandate and operations will result in new community support for this most worthy institution,” he said in the invitation.
Mr. Oak will be moving to Ottawa where he will be a senior partner in the U.S. branch of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In his new position, he will be working with Canada’s embassy in Washington and the 13 Canadian consulates general coordinating his country’s initiatives with the U.S.
On the top of his list will be his responsibility to monitor policies affecting the movement of goods and people back and forth across the U.S.-Canadian border at the 49th parallel, the longest common border in the world.
“With $1.5 billion of trade every day (between Canada and the U.S.), border issues will remain a concern,” he told GlobalAtlanta in a video interview.
Canada’s policy, he said, is to assure a balance between the free flow of goods and people and security concerns.
He also will be tracking “Buy American” policies of the U.S. government. With some products such as automobiles requiring parts to pass six to seven times over the border before final assembly, he questioned how rigorous “Buy American” policies requiring products to be manufactured in the U.S. could be applied.
Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative is a project in which he has been involved and should benefit trade flows in the Southeast with Memphis, Tenn., acting as a major hub for the region, he said.
The Port of Prince Rupert located in British Columbia on the West Coast opened in 2007 and is the closest major North American port to Asia.
In contrast to the California ports, he said that the Prince Rupert port is not congested and can service the entire continent through its link to the Canadian National Railroad. The transport times from Asia to the Southeast also would be greatly reduced, he added, in comparison to goods coming through California’s ports.
The Canadian railroad will link to that of CSX Corp., which is based in Jacksonville, Fla., but extends throughout the East Coast with numerous rail connections meeting in Memphis.
Meanwhile, the port in Halifax, Nova Scotia, also is being developed and that port will draw additional traffic from Asia, especially India, which primarily ships to the Americas through the Suez Canal.
Reflecting on his accomplishments over the past four years, Mr. Oak cited the Southeast U.S. Canadian Alliance program bringing together political and business leaders from seven central and eastern provinces and six southeastern states.
Launched through the efforts of the governments of Georgia and Quebec with a formal signing taking place in Montreal in November 2007, two conferences have been held since, the first in Savannah last year and one in St. John’s, Newfoundland, earlier this month.
Although the alliance is modeled on the successful SEUS-Japan alliance, he said that the Canadian alliance has resolved to implement several innovations that will attract businesses, including small- to medium-sized firms, to participate.
Each year, he said, a particular industry will be the primary focus of the alliance meetings in an effort to draw more companies in addition to political leaders.
Next year’s meeting is to be held in Billoxi, Miss., while in 2011 it is to be held in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Mr. Oak is to be replaced by Stephen Brereton, who will be moving to Atlanta from Buffalo, N.Y., where he has been the consul general.
The Atlanta office is responsible for Canadian affairs relating to Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina and Tennessee.
For more information about the Canadian consulate general in Atlanta, go to http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/atlanta/index.aspx
or call (404) 532-2000.