Shanghai group fosters Canada's image in China
Updated: 2014-09-27 01:48
By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York(China Daily Canada)
It's a little more than 7,000 miles from Shanghai to the Canadian capital of Ottawa, but the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai is trying to close the gap and foster connections between the business communities in both countries.
Leading the way for the chamber - known as CanCham Shanghai - is China-born Vivian Xie
"Overall, I believe that most Chinese have a very positive view of Canada," said Xie, executive director of the chamber. "They like Canada and want to travel there. They also know the country has an excellent educational system and they want to send their kids to Canadian schools. In many cases, they like the country so much they even want to live there."
Xie went to Canada in 2002 to attend the University of British Columbia. She joined the chamber as executive director in August. Xie was formerly China business development and marketing manager at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, one of Canada's leading law firms. Prior to that, she was a project manager for the British Columbia Trade and Investment Office.
Originally founded in 1996 by a group of locally-based Canadian companies and entrepreneurs with the support of the Canadian Consulate General in Shanghai, in 2008 the chamber was officially inaugurated in name. CanCham Shanghai is entirely self-funded through an annual membership fee and fundraising from events. All revenue is reinvested into the organization.
"I am not sure why we aren't officially affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce of Canada," said Xie. "However, we are connected to all the Canadian chambers in Asia and we can work with local chambers in Canada."
Xie commented on the chamber's history and activities in a telephone interview with a China Daily reporter in New York and in an email.
Membership in the chamber includes large, mid-sized and small businesses ranging from Air Canada and Bombardier Aerospace to waterproofing and roofing supplier Soprema and CTC Industries (Beijing) Ltd., the Asian partner of CIMCO Refrigeration, a group company of Toromont Industries Ltd.
Xie said entrepreneurs are also eligible to join as individual members. Canadian companies that lack a presence in China are encouraged to join as the chamber can refer them to locally-based partners as a first step in entering the Chinese market.
"We also work with Chinese companies that have a connection to Canada such as the DDI Group, a property developer that has invested in Canada," said Xie.
Xie said the recently approved foreign investment promotion and protection agreement between Canada and China (FIPA) has generated interest. "We organized an investment seminar in Beijing recently and people were excited and eager to learn more about Canada," she said.
A good example of how the chamber can help Chinese and Canadian companies connect involved the previously mentioned DDI Group. "DDI invested in Nova Scotia and we referred B±H (one of Canada's largest architectural practices) which got their Canadian office more business. We also referred DDI to Canadian real estate agents to help sell their property to buyers in North America and China," Xie said.
Now the chamber is assisting a Quebec-based fast-food chain specializing in fried chicken enter the Chinese market. CanCham Shanghai connected the company to a law firm that aided with its intellectual property (IP) registration, consultants that guided the firm through its corporate setup and food and beverage suppliers.
Xie said the chamber maintains a close working relationship with government units from Canada and China. In May, the chamber hosted Ed Fast, Canada's minister of International Trade, and in March Chris Alexander, the minister of Citizenship and Immigration. In January, CanCham Shanghai welcomed a delegation from Canada's remote Northwest Territories, including David Ramsay, the minister of Justice and Industry, Tourism and Investment.
The chamber also keeps a working relationship with various levels of the Chinese government, including foreign affairs offices in Yiwu, Wuxi, Hubei, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces. Currently the chamber is assisting the Jing'An District Government with locating a sister district or province in Canada.
Xie said the chamber can offer several services to Canadian firms that seek a foothold in the Chinese market including providing firms that can assist with human resources, accounting, advice on the bottling/labeling of products and help in complying with import-export guidelines.
"Through CanCham's social platforms, website and events, we help companies advertise their products to the Canadian, Chinese and international communities in China through sponsorships of products, our Access Program which allows companies to provide discounted and free products or services to other card-carrying members. We can also negotiate discount and or free exhibition space if a member is looking to demonstrate products at a trade show in China."