PLATTSBURGH — Quebec is very involved in the field of para-diplomacy, described as international activity that takes place at a level just below that of the federal government.
Dr. Stéphane Paquin, the inaugural Fulbright chair in Quebec studies at SUNY Plattsburgh, made that point during his recent lecture on “International Relations of Quebec and its Engagement with the United States,” given at Krinovitz Recital Hall.
Para-diplomacy has sometimes been a source of conflict with the federal government, which prefers the country to have one voice in international relations, Paquin said.
The Quebec Ministry of International Relations, Francophonie and External Commerce has 28 “mini-embassies” in 15 countries, staffed by 555 civil servants. It had a budget of $115 million in 2011-12.
The main mission on the international level is trade promotion. The delegations also work to attract direct foreign investment, promote Quebec’s image and attract talent and students to Quebec. A labor mobility agreement between Quebec and France, for example, allows certified professionals in one country to engage in the same in the other.
The province has six delegations in the United States, including one in New York City. Quebec’s first delegation in New York opened in 1940. Before that, most of the province’s trade was with Europe.
The New York connection helped when the province created HydroQuebec to bring power production under government control. Quebec ended up turning to Wall Street for funding, as most Canadian banks were opposed to the move.
The 2010-2013 Quebec Action Plan has several key parts, Paquin said, one of which is to foster trade, particularly with the United States.
He said Quebec is the No.1 trading partner with 36 of the 50 states in America.
“There is (still) a lot of room to grow for the Quebec economy in the United States,” he said, adding that the fastest growth market is with Texas.