Trade missions are an important part of British Columbia’s strategy to support economic growth and job creation throughout the province, as well as BC Jobs Plan objectives.

Trade missions build on the Province’s market and sector strategies by helping B.C. companies in key sectors build relationships in priority markets. Successful B.C. exporters soon discover that in a competitive global economy, what often sets a business apart is the strength of its relationships and that’s where participation in trade missions can make a key difference.

Representatives from more than 80 businesses and organizations joined Premier Christy Clark’s trade mission to South Korea, Japan and the Philippines in the spring of 2016. Vancouver-based Ethical Bean Coffee was among those intending to strengthen its business relationship with Costco Japan.

“On trade missions you never know who you’re going to meet – it’s up to you to drive the opportunities,” said Viren Malik, chief operating officer of Ethical Bean Coffee. “In some markets, like Japan, you have to go there and if you keep going, it inspires people. They feel respected that you care about their business. It also gives you an opportunity to learn more about the market and your competitors.”

A recent example comes from November 2016, when Finance Minister Michael de Jong travelled to Israel to connect B.C. companies with some of Israel’s and the world’s top life sciences organizations.

Vancouver-based INTERFACE Health Society CEO Michael Bidu joined the mission as a business delegate and signed a memorandum of understanding with Health Israel to mutually promote digital health innovation, attract capital, create jobs and accelerate commercialization between British Columbia and Israel.

“I joined the mission to Israel because of its focus on healthcare, life sciences and digital health, all of which Israel is a world leader in, and because of the high-quality program put together by the B.C. government. Nothing beats relevance and quality,” said Bidu. “The bottom-up collaboration and deep partnerships we’re building with the digital health ecosystem in Israel will help our startups and our provincial ecosystem in B.C. to be more competitive on a world stage.”

Business agreements are just one indicator of a successful mission – missions also give the B.C. government an opportunity to pursue its own co-operation agreements in order to facilitate new ways to work together to advance trade and investment.

For example, during the spring 2016 mission to South Korea, the Philippines and Japan, the B.C. Ministry of International Trade and the Korea Importers Association (KOIMA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that acknowledges the significant trade opportunities created by the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement and commits both parties to promoting bilateral trade and investment between the Province of British Columbia and the Republic of Korea.

“MOUs are vitally important to trade and investment in B.C.  as they often lead to firm investment commitments,” said Teresa Wat, Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism. “Trade missions give us a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with government officials and business representatives in priority markets in order to secure these agreements, which deepen our mutually beneficial trade, investment and cultural connections and pave the way for formal working relationships between us.”

Trade missions also play a key role in attracting new investment to British Columbia. Meetings, information sessions and seminars are arranged with investors, buyers and companies to promote B.C. as an ideal location to invest and establish a North American presence.

For example, during the fall 2015 mission to China, Premier Clark and Minister of International Trade Teresa Wat met with Poly Culture Group to advance Poly Culture’s plans to establish a head office in Vancouver. On Nov. 30, 2016, Poly Culture announced the grand opening of its North American headquarters in B.C. and also opened its art gallery in downtown Vancouver.

And while Premier Clark was in South Korea in May 2016, Korea-based Shinhan Bank announced plans to open its first West Canadian branch in British Columbia. Fast forward six months, and Shinhan Bank celebrated the official grand opening of its new branch in Coquitlam on Nov. 18, 2016.

“The provincial government of British Columbia’s effort and interest to strengthen its ties with Asia to become a trade hub has attracted Shinhan Bank Canada to locate its first Western Canadian branch in British Columbia,” said Leo Min Chul Han, senior manager of Shinhan Bank Canada. “Also, British Columbia has one of the most diverse populations in Western Canada. We want to enter a diverse market to not only offer financial services to the Korean community, but also to non-Korean communities as well.”

LEAVE A REPLY