China: A land of vast and diverse opportunity for Canadians

Shaaz Nasir

By Ken Lewis, Senior Trade Commissioner in Beijing

The Chinese dragon has long been a symbol of majestic power, good luck and prosperity. With GDP growth averaging over 10% a year, one might say the dragon is breathing fire into the global economy.

Ken Lewis, Senior Trade Commissioner in Beijing

An important manufacturing centre for both Asian and global supply chains, China is importing vast quantities of oil, chemicals, machinery, fertilizers, agri-food, vehicles and raw materials to feed its industries. Its infrastructure needs are ballooning, generating opportunities in infrastructure development, engineering, transportation and environmental technologies.

Furthermore, with a population of 1.3 billion, rising income levels and growing middle class, China’s potential as a consumer market is phenomenal.

Canada’s strengths in natural resources, agriculture, infrastructure development, information and communication technologies, as well as engineering, environmental, financial and business services, make it a natural business partner for China. With more than 3,000 Canadian companies already pursuing market, investment and partnership opportunities there, our two-way trade with China is rising strongly—up 12.8 per cent in 2007 to $47.6 billion, with our exports to China growing at twice the rate as our imports.

Despite this, Canada is seriously lagging behind other countries in both market share and two-way investment growth. We must change this or risk being left behind in the race for global competitive advantage in which China is an increasingly important player.

China is a vast and complex country, making doing business there difficult. The economy is diverse and has many distinct economic regions. Obtaining reliable information is a challenge, as is forging the right connections to advance one’s commercial interests. The financial and taxation aspects of doing business in China are intricate, and key obstacles include import barriers, limitations on foreign services providers, poor intellectual property rights enforcement, subsidy practices and low transparency in contracting processes.

New bilateral agreements on science and technology and foreign investment will open new doors for Canadian companies, as will ongoing work to secure Canada’s place as an important gateway for Asia-Pacific trade. In China, Canada’s expanding network of Trade Commissioners is actively promoting Canadian commercial capabilities throughout China and providing Canadian companies with the market intelligence, connections and support needed to capitalize on specific opportunities.

Our representatives in China are working continuously to monitor and influence Chinese commercial policies and regulations in favour of Canadian interests. Especially helpful are Canada’s excellent business and cultural ties to the regional hub of Hong Kong, which enjoys a flourishing relationship with the Mainland.

Now the world’s fourth largest economy, China’s rise as a global economic power has been nothing short of spectacular. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find an industry or country that does not feel the swish of the Chinese dragon’s tail.

Canadian companies would be remiss to overlook China, which surpassed the U.S. in 2004 as the single largest contributor to world economic growth.