Mayor plans trade mission to Far East, even though UBC study suggests these junkets don't work
Tomorrow, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and one of his newest friends, Ian McKay, will hold a news conference to announce a trade junket to China.
Of course, they don't use the word "junket" in the news release.
McKay, the new president of the Vancouver Economic Commission, and his spin doctors describe the upcoming trip as a "Vancouver-Led Business and Cultural Mission to China".
McKay is the former top staff member of the Liberal Party of Canada. It's not out of line to consider him as another one of Robertson's political attachés.
Foreign trips are a longstanding method of enhancing a political leader's standing with voters.
But do these junkets yield any benefits?
Not according to a 2009 study by two UBC researchers.
Keith Head and John Ries examined Canada's merchandise trade data for 181 countries between 1983 and 2003.
“When you look at the data carefully trade missions don’t seem to work,” Head, professor of strategy and business economics at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, said in a 2010 UBC news release. “What that implies is that the main cost of trade missions may not be financial, it may be the distraction of government leaders from their primary tasks.”
Head added: “Instead of sorting through tricky issues involving hospital beds or highways, they are instead jetting around the world, taking pictures with world leaders, feeling important but accomplishing nothing.”