Canadian Trade Commissioner Service

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service has 150 offices in cities around the world. They are designed to expand Canadian investment and trade.

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service helped create the Institut Minier Ouest Africain while on the other side of the continent an East Africa Standard article headlined “Relax Mining Laws, Urges Canadian Envoy” reported on a speech by Trade Commissioner Ronald Rose, who called for Kenyan mining sector reform. In Nigeria Canada’s trade commissioner has been part of Canadian businesses’ push to privatize the country’s electricity system. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service runs an Infrastructure Public-Private Advisory Board that pushes privatization in many countries.

They sometimes follow military intervention. A Canadian trade commissioner was on the ground in Libya a month before the country's leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in the 2011 war.

The Trade Commissioner Service promotes the arms industry. Foreign Affairs’ website explained: “To help Canadian firms navigate these complexities [regulations on arms sales] and overcome key challenges in their export markets, the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) is embedding a trade commissioner in the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries.”

By 1907 there were 12 Canadian trade commissions staffed by “commercial agents” located in Sydney, Capetown, Mexico City, Yokohama and numerous European and US cities.

The trade commissioners worked with the European colonial rulers. Canada’s trade commissioner in Cape Town, W. J. Egan, visited nine countries in West Africa over a 3½ month period in 1920-21, publishing an 80-page booklet titled West Africa and its Opportunities for Canadian Trade. Egan makes it abundantly clear that the colonial apparatus facilitated his trip. “It is impossible to say too much in appreciation of the cooperation and up to date business methods shown by the Colonial Office in London, as regards the writer’s trip to the British colonies of West Africa. While in West Africa, every official was courteous itself; there was nothing asked for in the shape of information that was not supplied, or a suggestion made as to where it could be secured. The Commissioner enjoyed the hospitality of the Governor of each colony, and in every case Their Excellencies, with their Colonial Secretaries, helped enthusiastically in making a success of the visit. Thanks and appreciation are also do to the general managers of the railways in Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, and Nigeria; the manager of the latter road, Mr. Bland, who is a Canadian, placed a special car at the writer’s disposal for his trip up to Kano, which is 700 miles inland.”

According to the official history of the Trade Department, at the end of the 1930s, “the promotion of Canadian exports to colonial Africa was a secondary responsibility of three offices — Cairo, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. In addition, the offices in London, Liverpool, and Paris were involved because these cities housed the head offices or buying offices of the trading companies that controlled the bulk of the trade in West Africa.” In 1946 a trade commission was opened in the Belgian Congo and another in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) nine years later.