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Trudeau’s Singapore pitch: Canada ‘just getting started’ on trade

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Singapore on Tuesday afternoon primed to make his pitch to a Singapore business audience: Amid new barriers to trading with the U.S., why not consider Canada?

Trudeau has a busy three days planned at the margins of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia summits. 

Canada isn’t a member of either group, but is lobbying for a seat at the latter to try to be more of a regional player on security issues. And it’s exploring a potential comprehensive trade agreement with the 10-country ASEAN bloc.

“We have an openness towards investment and to immigration that is extremely positive,” Trudeau said before meeting with the Canada–​ASEAN Business Council. “One of the things that is a big differentiator between us and our neighbour to the south right now is the fact that top companies can get visas for their top talent in certain sectors in less than two weeks, to be able to come and set up shop in Canada, and start doing great things with us.”

Trudeau said his visit comes as Canada is “particularly engaged in a positive way on the world stage.”

Last month, his government wrapped up consultations with Canada’s business community gauging the appetite for comprehensive trade talks with ASEAN. Trudeau expects to have more to say “in due course.”

However, an ASEAN deal could be a long-term slog. Instead, groups like the Chamber of Commerce want Canada to push ASEAN members like the Philippines to sign on to the deal already in place for the Pacific Rim: the CPTPP.

Canada and Singapore were among the first six countries to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11-country deal reworked after the departure of the U.S. in 2017. It takes effect at the end of this year.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen arrive at Paya Lebar Air base in Singapore on Tuesday. Pence is in Singapore to attend events around the 33rd ASEAN summit. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)

“We go through Singapore to the entire world because this is such an important trading hub,” Trudeau said. Singapore is the world’s largest transshipment hub, with goods passing through to somewhere else.

“The incomes in this part of the world have been rising dramatically,” said Wayne Farmer, volunteer president of the business council. “This is where the action is.”

“In some ways the NAFTA agreement has been almost too good for Canada because it really has shaped our trade and commerce flows,” Farmer said. “Now that things are a little bit different, I think it is a wake-up call that Canada needs to diversify.”

‘People appreciate the face time’

Trudeau said that with its existing agreements, Canada now has preferential market access to two-thirds of the world’s GDP, “and we are just getting started.” 

But simply having trade deals isn’t enough.

“The real work, actually, gets started after you have signed the papers, and that is building the relationships … and also changing mindsets, getting Canadian companies to see the opportunities we have,” he said. Canada is “perhaps not top of mind” for potential investors.

This “real work” of relationship building may not have an immediate payoff this week — no major breakthrough announcements are expected — but Trudeau’s itinerary is packed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects the troops during a welcoming ceremony at the Istana presidential palace in Singapore on Tuesday. Putin’s visit coincides with the ASEAN and East Asia Summit talks this week. (Roslan Rahman/Pool Photo via Associated Press)

“These are relationship-driven markets. People appreciate the face time,” said Rohan Belliappa, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and a regional representative of the Canadian National Railway. “It goes a very long way because we have a prime minister that has a very strong brand equity globally.

“When he comes to Asia people want to hear from him. And that only boosts Canada’s reputation in the eyes of these very important business people.”

As a “dialogue partner” in ASEAN, Trudeau will rub shoulders with other leaders at least twice: at a working luncheon and a gala dinner on Wednesday. 

But not all 10 of the ASEAN countries are a comfortable fit with the Trudeau government’s “progressive” agenda on human rights, freedom of the press and things like labour and environmental standards.

Trade vs. rights

Canada has a long-running consular dispute over the apparently unwarranted imprisonment of a Canadian teacher in Indonesia. 

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s treatment of the media is precisely the opposite of the press freedom Trudeau was championing in Paris on Sunday afternoon

And Canada recently stripped Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary citizenship in protest of her role in gross human rights violations against the Rohingya minority in that country.

In cases like these, Canada’s quest for a share of the economic growth in the region runs up against the values it’s been championing in other forums.

ASEAN Leaders pose for a group photo during the opening ceremony for their 33rd summit Tuesday in Singapore. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

While ASEAN countries might be interested in a trade deal that cuts tariffs, it’s unclear they’re prepared to take other steps Canada may want to see before deepening trade relations.

Nevertheless, “it’s an advantage to stand up for your values,” said former foreign service officer Emilie Potvin, who now works for the Uber ride-sharing service in Southeast and North Asia. “Canada is seen clearly right now as a leader.” When it comes to rights, Trudeau is “willing to have that conversation” with everyone, she said.

The ASEAN summit is not known for airing its dirty laundry in public — with criticizing partners too harshly seen as a cultural affront.

But that may be changing: Malaysia’s prime minister recently suggested his country would no longer support Suu Kyi over her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

Ancestors part of pitch

In a region where personal relationships count, Trudeau has a chapter in his family’s history that may help break the ice.

On Tuesday the prime minister said it was “touching” for him to return to Singapore, a place he had first visited as a young man with his father Pierre Trudeau. His mother Margaret’s side of the family has ancestral roots here: his fifth great-grandfather was Maj.-Gen. William Farquhar, the first British commandant of colonial Singapore early in the 19th century.

Farquhar’s daughter Esther, Trudeau’s direct ancestor, is buried in Singapore’s Fort Canning Park. A scheduled photo opportunity there was postponed due to a late flight Tuesday, but Trudeau hopes to reschedule.

Trudeau’s father’s relationship with China has helped open doors for Canada there since the Liberal government took office three years ago.

On Wednesday, Trudeau has his third leaders’ dialogue with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, as Canada keeps trying to expand its presence in Asia’s largest market.

Trudeau met Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades during a refuelling stop in Larnaca, Cyprus, late Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Trudeau’s trade diversification push even played a role in a short stopover his plane made on its way to Singapore.

When the president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, came to the airport for a short courtesy call, Trudeau reminded the European Union member that it would like to see a ratification vote in Cyprus soon on the Canada–EU trade deal.

That’s now expected sometime in 2019, an official said.

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Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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