This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Canada China Business Council (CCBC), a private, membership-based association that seeks to facilitate trade and investment between Canada and China.In an exclusive interview with Beijing Review reporter Chen Ran, Sergio Marchi, President of the CCBC, shares his views on the current situation and prospects for Sino-Canadian trade links.
Beijing Review: Could you please review the role that the CCBC plays in promoting Sino-Canadian trade? What are our trading prospects?
Sergio Marchi: I'm very proud of our 30-year track record. Our main mission is to promote trade and investment between the two countries.
For much of those first 30 years, that meant trying to promote Canadian companies accessing and penetrating the growing Chinese market. I think in the next 30 years, we want to continue to do that work for Canadian companies and their success in this part of the world. What we would also like to do more is to welcome and attract increasing investments in Canada, because Chinese companies are growing and very much growing global in a very aggressive way.
We would like to play a constructive role in attracting Chinese and foreign investment for our benefit. We've had the first 30 years that has been a very proud achievement, while we celebrate our founding members and their entrepreneurial spirit. The way we will be able to honor them is by rededicating ourselves to writing a new exciting chapter in the Sino-Canadian story.
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening up. Do you see any changes in its investment environment?
The 30 years of reform and opening up has literally transformed China. The economy has been nothing short of breathtaking. You've had 30 years of virtually double-digit economic growth every single year, and so it's just been an incredible magnitude of growth, which means that the country has been transformed, perhaps more importantly from an international perspective. The role that China plays and the impacts on the world have been terrific.
The Sino-Canadian trade volume has witnessed rapid growth in recent years. China is Canada's second-largest single-nation trading partner, and its first in Asia. Which areas are mutually beneficial to our trade links?
There are a number of trading areas that are complementary. One is financial services, where we have some of our leading banks, like Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank and insurance companies, not only in Beijing and Shanghai but elsewhere across China. The transportation sector-companies like Bombardier-is very active and very successful, and so are agri-food processing and natural resources. We have some of the leading Canadian mining companies in China. So these are some of the areas that really offer a value-added contribution from Canada, a complementation in terms of Chinese needs.
What we also need to look to is some of the new and emerging sectors. I think environmental technology is a good example. We have developed strong environmentally and technologically sound companies at the same time when the Chinese Government has made a key priority in its Five-Year Plan on improving the quality of the air and the water, and the quality of healthcare and education.
On the environment, there is no question that there are some challenges for China. There needs to be both a national objective, and we have to come to grips with those challenges in the face of your development. The benefit that the Chinese will have is environmental technologies, which older economies like ours and the developed world have had. Today we have technologies that we didn't have 30 or 50 years ago, when we were going through our industrial revolution. So there is a way to control emissions, clean production, etc. As long as there is a will, we can also now find a technological way; and now we have to marry the technology with the political will. If we do that, we'll deliver our environmental aspirations not only in China but internationally as well.
Do you think the Sino-Canadian trade ties will experience the same rising friction as the Sino-U.S. trade ties did? How do we address the issue in a more effective way?
We enjoyed a long and privileged relationship with China. We have been able, over the years, to mostly agree where we've disagreed (we've disagreed civilly in a mutual respectful way). We've been able to find solutions to differences that any bilateral relationship has. But that's not the surprise. The question is that how do you go about solving those differences or those trade issues.
I'm confident and convinced that if we've been able to lay down that foundation since our diplomatic relations back in the 1970s, there is no reason why the future can't be more reflective of that. It means having the relationship politically, having a balanced engagement on numerous fronts, and also moving not only just bilaterally but using that partnership by applying it multilaterally. That is to say, whether things that Canada and China can do internationally would benefit the international community.
According to the Canadian-based Global Chinese Press, the organizers of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games have released a business guide in Chinese, which aims to provide opportunities to Chinese traders. Do you see any possible cooperation between the two countries in terms of the service sector during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and Shanghai World Expo 2010?
I certainly hope so. In fact, in Shanghai the other day, we launched a new initiative called Shanghai-CCBC Trade and Investment Forum. One of the areas, which we went into great detail with the deputy director of the Expo about, was the opportunities that would flow from the Expo before, during and after for Canadian companies. We had a very good discussion on that. So what we'd hope for is that the linkage between the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Expo and our own Winter Olympics provides not only a wonderful environment for our athletes of the Olympics, both in summer and winter, but also hopefully commercial benefits and opportunities our companies can participate in and Chinese companies can participate in Vancouver.
In August 1999, you were appointed Canadian Ambassador to the WTO, and later elected Chairman of the WTO Geneva Council. How do you see China's performance in fulfilling its WTO commitment?
I was happy to be there in 2001 when China entered the WTO family. My feeling then, as it is today, is that the Chinese have become an instrumental player in the WTO very quickly because of their economy, size and importance, and also because of their approach. They've been very constructive and very much playing to the benefit of the WTO rather than practicing or playing a political agenda. I think they have been a very constructive force; they are one of the leaders; they are looked up to not only by other developing countries but by all countries in Geneva.
When I was the Chairman of the Geneva Council, I would invite ambassadors to talk about an issue or challenge or to test something; I would never do without inviting the ambassador from China, who obviously represented a country that was very important to the ultimate deal-making in the WTO.
You have a first-class ambassador, Sun Zhenyu, who is a very good friend of mine. He was a great choice as your first ambassador. He is good, he knows his job, he is outgoing, he is friendly and he is an extraordinary diplomat of significant knowledge and wisdom.