Sunday, April 18, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Wednesday, April 14, 2010)

Insights into China, funding for housing comes to Transition House and the City shifts the tax burden further towards the residential rate payers, some of the items of the news cycle for Wednesday.

Daily News, front page, headline story
CHINESE AMBASSADOR VISITS FOR PRINCE RUPERT-SKEENA ROUNDTABLE -- Canada's dipolmatic corps to Asia made a stop in Prince Rupert to outline their insight into the Asian market and how the north coast and Pacific  Gateway is being received in China and beyond.

Transition House has received funding to help further development of the Moresby Townhouses on Park Avenue, a project designed to provide transition housing for women and children.

The impact of the closure of the Ministry of Forests office in Prince Rupert examined, with the Daily News reporting that ten local residents will lose their jobs when the office closes in 90 days.

The Daily continues it's regular review of City council with it's scorecard of events from Monday's gathering in council chambers.

The Sports section features a review of the Kitamaat Open Basketball tournament held over the weekend past.

(Daily News Archives for April 14, 2010)

Chinese Ambassador visits for Prince Rupert-Skeena roundtable 
New homes for Transition House
Sunken Gardens needs some green thumbs 
Local forestry office closing its doors
Enviros concerned over new pipeline spill

The Northern View
City shifting some of the burden of tax increase from businesses to residential properties -- City council splits 4-3 as it makes the decision to shift the burden of taxation away from business operators and into the wallets of the residential tax payers (see article here)

Northwest Fire Season Arrives Early -- The spring has only just begun and already the Northwest fire season is underway as three fires have been reported in the region already this month (see article here)

CBC News British Columbia, Daybreak North
No new items were posted to the Daybreak North site on Wednesday

Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now. The most recently posted items can be found on the archive page for Daybreak North click here

Daily News, front page, headline story 
Chinese Ambassador visits for Prince Rupert-Skeena roundtable 
By Monica Lamb-Yorski 
The Daily News 
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

 In his opening remarks, Mulroney said the delegation was coming from most of the dynamic parts of Asia where Prince Rupert and the region are increasingly well known.

For 90 minutes on a sunny Monday afternoon, David Mulroney, Canada’s Ambassador to China, and Doreen Steidle, Consul General to Hong Kong, shared insights about living and working in China with locals at a round table held at City Hall. 

“We will be participating tomorrow and the next day in events in Vancouver around the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Asia Pacific Foundation. We will be meeting with various people in the private sector, from the government and the universities.

 “Given that we come back only occasionally because our work is in Asia, we like to make the most of these travels and Doreen made the suggestion we come up here and meet with people and see the area for ourselves,” Mulroney explained.

Mulroney visited Prince Rupert in 1982 before heading out on his first posting to Seoul, Korea.

 “The port here has never been far from my mind,” Mulroney commented.

 Coincidentally, he worked in China with Prince Rupert’s Economic Development Officer, Nellie Cheng.

 “First off I want to tell you how much and how directly topics like the Gateway initiative are on our radar screen. They are on our radar screens also because people like Minister Stockwell Day come over frequently to talk about it and explain it to senior levels in Hong Kong and China,” Mulroney said.

Talk is one thing, he added, but it’s useful to come back and take the time to ask 

 “We have the chance from time to time to welcome people from the port to China and talk to folks in China like COSCO, who do a lot of business with the port. We try to be part of the effort to work and serve them as customers, to listen to them and answer their questions. Those relationships are important to us,” Mulroney said. 

Mulroney and his colleagues are also in close touch with other Chinese companies that are increasingly using the Port of Prince Rupert.

“China’s emergence on the world as a major player, certainly in economic transformation, is having a profound effect on Canada. The numbers are beginning to tell and China’s increasing demand, particularly for raw materials, is having an effect.”

In the last year or so, he added, there has been four billion dollars worth of Chinese investment in Canada. “I’m convinced that is going to grow. We’ve also seen Chinese demand for a range of Canadian agricultural and resource products grow exponentially,” Mulroney said.

The idea of raw resources, especially fish is something that concerns Prince Rupert City Councillor Joy Thorkelson.

“As a member of a union in the fishing industry, our concerns are that we’re shipping raw fish to China for processing there. How do we avoid the mistake of exporting raw fish? How do we avoid that and export more final product?” she asked. 

Responding, Mulroney suggested developing a business plan is one way of going about it.

There is a market in China for value-added products, he said, but it probably takes a bit more work in terms of research and promotion.

 “Sometimes in Canada we are very critical of the money spent on the promotional side. It is very necessary if you want to move up the value chain to get out there and know your market. At the end of the day, if you believe in the value-added aspect of your proposition, you have to get out there and tell it and sell your product and you will find your market,” Mulroney replied.

Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne asked for guidance when it comes to building relationships with Chinese companies.

“When you talk about money and bank accounts - and I’m going to add relationships, community and trust - as a City we attempted to build a relationship with Sun Wave Forest Products in China.”

For many various reasons, Gordon-Payne added, that has not worked out.

 “We continue to have some difficulty with them, although we’re moving on. Does that stay with us? I’m wondering, as a community, do we have anything to repair? Do we have a lesson to learn? How are we seen moving forward because the Chinese government was involved with us? Where do we go when we’ve been through something like that when we attempt to rebuild our community and create opportunities?”

Mulroney said he wasn’t familiar with the particulars of Sun Wave and the City of Prince Rupert, but his experience has been that people are pragmatic and understanding when projects don’t go forward.

“While China’s a different place and cultures are different, there’s no substitute for common sense and prudence and good old Canadian courtesy. You can walk away from bad projects and go on and do a good project tomorrow, but you also have to do your due diligence. There are good partners and not-so-good partners in China.”

 According to Mulroney, smaller projects are a good way to start. “I always like the idea of piloting things, of starting a bit slowly, so if something doesn’t go well you can walk away at a little bit of a cost, but it’s not a game-ender for you.”

 He listed Canadian courtesy, pragmatism and common sense as three key things when it comes to doing business. 

Steigle said there’s also the perception of risk.

 “There is on the spectrum, extreme to low risk when you come to China. Fortunes are made and lost in China all the time. And it’s a far more entrepreneurial and capitalist society than we really appreciate. You can invest and lose a ton of money and you can invest and win a ton of money. It’s very dynamic.”

If people don’t want any risk, or very little risk, Steigle explained, it is good to start in a place like Hong Kong.

 “The legal system is the same as in Canada. You would incorporate your company in Hong Kong because if you have a partner, you can sue them in Hong Kong,” Steigle said. “It is valuable to be in a business environment that’s familiar.”

 “The question you have to ask yourself is, as you go into a place like China, what happens if things go south? Can my assets be seized? Can I sell it when I want to get out of it? These are questions you have to ask yourself.

 “If you aren’t comfortable and you encounter problems - don’t go. Go where it’s a lower risk. That’s how I would interpret the spectrum. If you are a high risk taker, then go for it,” Steigle added.

Mulroney agreed, but said he also favours that approach in developing a relationship. “Let’s try a small transaction. I’ll get to know you, you get to know me,” he suggested.

In China relationship building is very important, added Mulroney. “You get to know people over time and you get to see how much faith is put into a venture. If you get it right, that’s the very best way to cement a long-term relationship. If you get it wrong and you stuck a toe in the water and it has not worked, then you can solidify a relationship another day and that’s not a bad thing.”

Wayne Drury, President of Coast Tsimshian Resources, told the delegates his company has approached its business ventures in China by starting out slow.

 “We set up our office in Bejing because we wanted to have a presence there, so we could build a relationship and we could look at who our potential partners in China could be. We started small for our first year and this year we are expanding. We are now looking at moving up the value chain and marketing timber products in China,” Drury said.

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