Inter-Tribal Trade - Keith Matthew

Cando to be “honest broker” in developing inter-tribal trade

Kweith Matthew

Keith Matthew, Cando President, speaks at the International Inter-tribal Trade and Investment Organization's trade mission and conference in Oklahoma

By Shari Narine
Cando Writer

The potential for inter-tribal trade between First Nations in Canada and Tribes in the United States “is absolutely huge,” says business consultant Keith Matthew, who also serves as president of Cando.

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.

“We’re unfortunately at the whim of both of those governments,” said Matthew.

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.

It is unclear how many First Nations are in the position of taking advantage of inter-tribal trade. Matthew says it’s a statistical analysis he will suggest his organization look at, especially in light of the “budding relationships” Cando has with the Assembly of First Nations, Metis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

“That’s an issue not only ourselves as Cando need to look at, but all those other economic development organizations that want to help our communities, whether you’re First Nations, Metis and Inuit, understand the current situation. We need a good snapshot of where we’re at and we don’t have that,” he said.

Matthew says he would also like a “snapshot” of how Indigenous communities are operate businesses within Canada. There is no comprehensive list of who is conducting business, what they are doing, or who their markets are.

Matthew would also like to see more cooperation and less barriers between Indigenous businesses.

“(Cooperation) would be a welcome development in First Nation businesses, Metis businesses and Inuit businesses for sure. I would tend to say we’re almost, in a lot of incidences, competing directly with each other for much of the same market,” he said.

The establishment of something like an economic commission within each Indigenous community would offer the opportunity to find out how to take advantage of Indigenous businesses, economic development arms, and mutual beneficial agreements that are being signed within Canada.

“And then looking further abroad how do we take advantage of the tribes in the U.S. who want to do business with us? How do we facilitate this and make it real?” he said.

Matthew sees Cando as playing a substantial role in this development, serving as an “honest broker,” writing technical papers and examining the mechanics of making inter-tribal trade work for Canada’s Indigenous groups.

More articles in this series:

Wayne Garnons-Williams - Inter-tribal trade provides tribal, economic sovereignty

Jim Collard - CPN foreign-trade zone ready for long term contracts

Keith Matthew - Cando to be “honest broker” in developing inter-tribal trade

Ray Wanuch - Strong economic development plans required to move forward with FTZs