CATA deal to help local firms access Chinese market

New links between Canadian and Chinese high-tech clusters could create more opportunities for local technology firms, according to the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance.

CATA recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU)

with the China Chamber of International Commerce (Fujan Provincial Electronics and Information Industry) to promote the development of business relations between Canada and China in the high-tech field. As well, Canada’s largest high-tech association signed a second MOU with the Schenzhen Hi-Tech Industry Association to further industry collaboration.

As part of the MOUs, Canadian high-tech firms will receive advanced notice on certain multinational contracts to modernize the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, said John Reid, CATA’s president.

“”Our role is to pass that (early information) on to our members as part of a supplier development activity.””

The main moniker of China’s Olympic bid was “”The New Beijing,”” and one of the major goals was to showcase an Olympic Games that will be technologically advanced.

To ensure Canadian companies capitalize on this opportunity, it’s especially critical that the Chinese know who they’re dealing with, said Reid, adding these types of MOU “”handshakes”” carry a lot of weight within the Chinese business culture and are regarded as an essential component in establishing bilateral business ties.

In conjunction with the MOU signings, CATA has worked with a Chinese delegation interested in copying Canadian police forces’ use of certain technology. For example, officers here use mobile devices supplied by Waterloo-based RIM when patrolling the street, said Reid.

If Chinese police forces were to copy this communication method, it would create a significant market opportunity for Canada, he said, adding CATA has already provided the Chinese delegation with RIM’s contact information.

“”What we’ve done with the two MOUs is create an umbrella for information-exchange and build up a network of contacts with the Chinese,”” said Reid. “”When you develop these types of handshake agreements, you become the first organization of contact in Canada.””

This is critical because the association can now be regarded by those who head Chinese trade missions as “”one of the major conduits of business development information for the industry.””

This bolsters CATA’s position as a broker of partnerships between Canadian high-tech firms and Chinese counterparts, he added.

To facilitate these contacts, CATA has an exclusive China representative on the ground to meet face-to-face with Chinese trade officials, identify partnering opportunities and ensure Canadian companies are well represented at Chinese tradeshows.

“”She really becomes a source of intelligence for our members,”” Reid said of Qu Sun, who is also founder of Svista Investment & Consulting (Canada) Inc., a Canada-China-based federal incorporation.

An executive with Ottawa-based Semiconductor Insights said his firm has already benefited from CATA’s groundwork in China.

The Far East country represents “”a large opportunity and a large threat”” for the reverse engineering firm, said Jenn Markey, SI’s vice-president of marketing, citing cheap labour as one of the major threats.

“”So we need to understand that. And CATA has helped us map the landscape in terms of who our competitors are within that space and how we would differentiate ourselves when competing with low-cost labs.””

CATA has also assisted SI in determining who the most logical Chinese partners are, added Markey.

“”We’re trying to understand the lay of the land in China, and (CATA) has a lot of the groundwork for us to start the process of setting up sales partnership visits.””

Meanwhile, Reid emphasizes the Canada-China high-tech relationship must be regarded as “”a long courtship”” that’s very “”state-oriented.””

“”It’s important (for the Chinese) to have state-to-state agreements and these types of (MOU) handshakes. You’re in a different equation for developing trust, given the cultural differences between the two countries. So we saw the need to develop these types of electronic information exchange agreements with similar organizations to CATA in China.””

In the coming months, CATA expects to publish information on specific procurement opportunities in China, thanks to the two MOUs.

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