Quebec’s premier, Lucien Bouchard, led a high-powered delegation to Atlanta last week looking for opportunities to increase trade and promote his province as an investment site.
But one export he was not promoting, he told GlobalFax in an informal press conference held at the Waverly Hotel, is the separatist political program of his Parti Quebecois and the province’s quarrels and disputes.
Known as a charismatic campaigner at home, Mr. Bouchard was extremely deliberate as he described how Quebec has benefited from free trade and its commitment to remain open to the world.
During a luncheon address at the InterTrade ’98 trade show at the Cobb Galleria Centre, he cited more than 7,000 jobs in Georgia that depend on Quebec customers.
He also focused on Montreal as a center for developing high-tech companies with the highest proportion of the population of any major North American city working in the high-tech sector.
And he reminded the more than 100 luncheon attendees that Quebec is a major local employer, with its more than 30 Quebec companies operating in the state.
He also underscored that a major portion of Quebec’s gross domestic product (GDP) is derived from exports. And while he cited his trips to Asia and Europe as proof of the province’s involvement in the global economy, he stressed that important economic links tie Quebec to the U.S.
Sounding somewhat as if Quebec was already a sovereign state, he said that the province is the seventh largest trading partner of the U.S., adding that this rank trails Canada but was way ahead of many Group of Eight (G8) countries including France and Italy.
He later told reporters that while committed to Quebec’s independence, his top priority of the moment is to put its financial house in order, and that he was more concerned with economic issues at the moment than political ones.
He added, however, that he would never call for another referendum unless he was convinced the separatists would win it.
Quebec already has held two referendums on independence with 49.4% of the voters favoring separation in 1995. Another referendum cannot be held until after the next election, which must be held by September 1999, and is likely to be held this year.
When asked how he could know the results ahead of the election, he said simply, We are politicians.
For more information about trade and investment opportunities with Quebec, call Louise Fortin of the Quebec Trade Office here at (770) 980-0262; fax, (770) 980-9531 or send an e-mail to email@example.com