CATA aligns with U.S., Mexican counterparts on NAFTA issues

One of Canada’s biggest technology associations has joined forces with two of its counterparts in the U.S. and Mexico, creating an alliance that reaches thousands of technology users.

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA Alliance), the Software and Information Industries Association (SIIA) and Canietti announced the partnership earlier this month as a way to help stimulate growth in the IT sectors of all three countries. Based in Washington D.C., the SIIA has 700 members from big software companies such as Oracle, Sun Microsystems and Red Hat to content companies like Reuters and Bloomberg and financial services firms like the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canieti, which is based in Mexico City, represents the electronics, telecommunications and informatics sector in Mexico.

Barry Gander, executive director of CATA, said his organization was already doing a lot of work with his American colleagues and this was the next logical step in their relationship.

“It struck us that so many of the technology issues and business issues are the same on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border that a tighter alliance made sense,” said Gander. “If we were doing it with the Americans, it also made sense to include our colleagues in Mexico and make it a continent-wide NAFTA (type of) accord, because technology knows no borders.”

Ken Wasch, president of SIIA, said an alliance like this provides access to America through the SIIA’s programs. SIIA, for example, has a Webcast series on hot button issues such as channel marketing, software as a service (SaaS) and offshoring.

“We found that there’s some interest in participating in each other’s programs,” said Wasch. “We’re going to try to create future opportunities for Canadian, American and Mexican companies to interact with one another on a more regular basis.”

For example, on October 25, CATA’s counterparts from the U.S. and Mexico will be coming up to Ottawa to talk about accessing NAFTA as part of the GTEC conference happening there that week.

While free trade has existed among the three countries for some time, the alliance will allow companies a better chance to market, export and match-make with other NAFTA companies, said Gander.

“What we’re trying to do is expedite it and make it more accessible to Canadian companies,” he said. “With this increased access through the SIIA and Canietti, they can more easily reach their prospective customers.”

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s Web site, the North American Free-Trade Agreement, which is the world’s largest trading block, has enabled Canadian manufacturers to send more than half of their production to the U.S., while Mexico’s share of the U.S. import market has almost doubled from 6.9 per cent in pre-NAFTA 1993 to 11.6 per cent in 2002. In 2002, Canadian exports were shipped to 39 of the 50 U.S. states.

To help companies with exporting their goods and services, CATA has developed a tool called the e-profiler that it will now be sharing with the SIIA and Canietti. The tool is an online matchmaking database that allows companies to list their strengths and the products they offer as well as who they’re looking for in terms of partners and customers.

Wasch said those inthe IT industry will see a lot more interaction between their respective trade associations.

“The idea of resurrecting a true NAFTA event is something that’s a dream of both mine and (CATA president) John Reid’s,” said Wasch. “An undifferentiated conference for all things and all types of companies doesn’t work. A targeted event does.”

NAFTA is something that’s central to Wasch’s beliefs, so much so that he and his wife, a Canadian who he met at a NAFTA conference in Mexico over 10 years ago, named their dog after it.

“It’s a good thing we had a dog before we had children otherwise one of the children would be named NAFTA,” he said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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