Canadian Ministry Report Takes Future Glimpse of Trade, Transportation
“In a world of massive and complex webs of interconnectedness, the quality of transportation and logistics systems may be the single greatest contributor to a country’s economic performance.”
That was the point of departure for a review of transportation in Canada presented to the country’s minister of transport by a task force set up last year by Canada’s parliament.
After reviewing the last 30 years of transportation developments in Canada, the report projected several future trends and offered recommendations on how to approach them.
Environmental limits are likely to dictate future transportation choices, the report suggested. Improvements to the transportation infrastructure will have environmental consequences: pollution, encroachments on wildlife habitats, loss of farmland, and damage to water resources. “Public demand to address these environmental and climate change threats can be expected to persist,” said the report.
As a northern country, the Arctic will loom large in Canada’s transportation future, opening up opportunities, but also challenges and responsibilities, as a result of climate change. “Economically dormant for most of Canada’s history, the North is opening to navigation and development,” said the report, “generating a cluster of transportation-related issues, from security to the movement of people and goods in remote and extreme conditions.”
Technology will continue to have a major impact on transportation and logistics. They “will be reshaped by digital technologies, the application of space-based technologies, nanotechnologies, the development of new materials and composites, green technologies, lasers, and a variety of sensor and monitoring technologies,” said the report.
Geopolitics and economics will influence the future of trade. The growing middle-class populations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East will become “customers, suppliers, and relentless competitors,” said the report. “New multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade and investment arrangements will spur trade and flows of people. Converting these developments to opportunity and higher living standards for Canadians will require major improvements in transportation and logistical connections.”
Global trade patterns will continue to shift. By 2050, international freight transport volumes are anticipated to increase by 400 percent and the transpacific will surpass the North Atlantic as the world’s busiest trade corridor. By 2060, “world trade will tilt in favor of emerging economies,” said the report, “and their exports will become more specialized, entailing higher value-added activities.”
With regard to all of these trends, “It will be important to anticipate the demands on our transportation sector and develop policies and infrastructure to support these trends,” the report concluded.
Infrastructure projects require longer lead times to secure investments and regulatory approvals—“10 to 20 years from inception to operational conclusion is increasingly the norm,” according to the report—and these projects “often involve integration with a larger transportation system and require national or international collaboration.”
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