Trip to China, South Korea aims to 'open doors' in region
VICTORIA - Premier Gordon Campbell will board a plane bound for South Korea this morning, leading an Asian trade mission comprising British Columbia's largest-ever delegation of green businesses.
The group of about 30 clean technology and green design companies will be in Seoul and Suwon in South Korea until Wednesday, and then in Beijing until next Saturday.
"Virtually every Asian economy is looking for opportunities to find clean technology and green design," Campbell said in an interview Friday.
"We have literally dozens and dozens of companies coming to say, 'Here's what we have to offer.'"
Campbell said while in Korea he plans to open B.C.'s first trade and investment office in Seoul and to meet Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-Soo.
"One of the things we're trying to do is diversify our markets so we don't have the kind of dependency we've had on American trade," said Campbell.
"We think there's an opportunity for free trade between Canada and South Korea, which would enhance our economic prospects significantly."
In Beijing, Campbell will officially open the B.C. Canada Pavilion near Tiananmen Square.
"It's a very impressive building. It shows off British Columbia's products. It's thousands of square feet where British Columbia and Canada can introduce itself to all of those people who are coming to China," he said.
"We expect 400,000 people to come through British Columbia Canada Pavilion and it really is a launch of our pre-Olympic program we will have for the 21st Olympic and Paralympic Games here in Vancouver in 2010."
Campbell will also meet Beijing government officials to talk about Olympic preparations and will help to open the Vancouver Exhibit at the Beijing Aquarium.
Companies on the delegation will also hold meetings with local Chinese government and business officials.
On Friday, a vice-president of one of the companies on the delegation said while he already does a small amount of business in Korea and China, this trip will help broaden his company's exposure.
"We're going to meet some serious government officials in Korea and in particular in China, and clearly nothing on a large scale about infrastructure is going to be decided in China without somebody in the government having input," said Richard Chesson, VP business development for Carmanah Technologies.
Established in 1996, Victoria-based Carmanah Technologies produces a variety of energy-efficient products, including solar-powered LED lights, solar-electric power systems, and a unique line of edge-lit LED illuminated signage.
"You want to do serious business in those countries, you have to go and talk to people and see what it's like on the ground," he said.
"I don't expect we are going to come home with eight sales contracts because of one trip, but it's an efficient way to open doors and I rely on the government to be attracting the right sort of people to these functions."
The trip is Campbell's fifth mission to Asia and first mission to Korea.
His last mission to Asia went to China and India in November and December 2007.