Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kathleen Wynne vows to get ‘tangible results’ from China trip

Kathleen Wynne vows to get ‘tangible results’ from China trip

Premier Kathleen Wynne, Canada’s only openly gay premier, stressed she does not anticipate any awkwardness in China, where homosexuality was outlawed until 1997.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, Canada’s only openly gay premier, stressed she does not anticipate any awkwardness in China, where homosexuality was outlawed until 1997.
‎SHANGHAI, CHINA—Premier Kathleen Wynne means business.
Wynne arrives in China this weekend for her first-ever international trade mission with hopes of boosting Ontario trade with the Asian economic superpower.
Her week-long mission to Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing is to introduce representatives of some 60 Ontario science and technology companies to Chinese government officials and potential customers and business partners.
“I feel very strongly that I need to make practical agreements and that we need to have tangible results from these trips because this is not about my world travel,” the premier told the Star.
“This is about Ontario expanding in the markets and doing better in the globe. We punch above our weight but we’ve got to do more of that,” she said.
Wynne said “government-to-government” contact is essential to do business in a place like China.
“It’s very important that those political relationships be in place in order for the doors to open for the business connections,” the premier said.
“So it’s not just a symbolic thing that there be a trip to China and that there be those meetings. It’s actually practical and important for making sure that we have the investments and the deals and that we expand our trading partnership.”
ChipCare Corp. chief executive James Fraser, whose small firm manufactures a $2,500 hand-held blood-testing device that can provide almost instant disease diagnoses, said participating in the mission makes sound business sense.
“There’s a significant market for us in China ... we’re now looking for commercialization partners and potential investors,” said Fraser, whose Toronto-based company has four full-time employees and two part-timers.
His mobile lab, which is smaller than a box of Kleenex, “has the potential to save and improve the lives of millions of people around the world by providing state-of-the-art blood testing to patients in remote areas.”
“We’re looking at exporting it to China and we’re looking at manufacturing in Ontario, so that would be manufacturing jobs ... both for the device and for the cartridge,” he said, referring to the $3 single-use plastic tube for the blood samples.
“As the platform gets established and we develop multiple tests (such as) sexually transmitted tests, concussion tests, cardiac enzyme tests ... that will also involve hiring scientists.
While China is Ontario’s second largest export market after the United States, it accounts for only 1.4 per cent of the province’s trade — compared to 80 per cent for the U.S. market.
Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, who will accompany Wynne, previously travelled to China with former premier Dalton McGuinty.
“It is a different way of doing business. There is a lot more government-to-government to help open doors for our businesses,” said Duguid.
“The connections that she makes with officials in China will help ensure that Ontario businesses have greater access. These kinds of missions help open doors.”
In the wake of McGuinty’s 2010 trip, for example, Ontario businesses signed an estimated $800 million of contracts.
“We’d like to do better than that,” quipped Wynne, adding she was consulting with herpredecessor, who visited China four times during his decade in office, for his expertise.
The premier, who has never been to Asia, admitted she had some butterflies about her first overseas trip since taking power in February 2013.
“Some of the formality to a meeting that accrues … just because of the office is something that I am a little anxious about, because I am not the most formal person in the world,” she said with a smile.
But Wynne, Canada’s only openly gay premier, stressed that she does not anticipate any awkwardness in a country where homosexuality was outlawed until 1997.
It is believed she is the second lesbian political leader to visit China — Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir came in April 2013.
Unlike Sigurdardottir, who was accompanied by her spouse to the delight of gay activists in China, where same-sex relationships remain taboo, Wynne is travelling solo.
“Jane is working and is not able to go,” the premier said of her partner Jane Rounthwaite. But she said she expected to receive the “same respectful treatment” in Canada.
“It will be a very interesting trip for me on many levels and I expect that we will have very fruitful conversations. I don’t think the issue of gender will hobble any of those discussions.”
As for other human rights questions that most Western leaders face when visiting China — especially given the recent protests in Hong Kong — Wynne stressed she is saying the same things privately to Chinese officials she says publicly.
“I will say that anywhere. He knows that. Anyone who I have met knows that that is the position that I will take, so I am not apprehensive of saying that wherever I am.”
Wynne will join forces with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz next week in Beijing in a bid to bolster Chinese trade with all three provinces.
That’s a joint initiative stemming from last August’s Council of the Federation meetingin Charlottetown.
“I am glad that there are going other premiers there. I’m glad that there is a bit of co-ordination,” she said.
Now that she has a majority government and can more easily leave the legislature, Wynne said Ontarians can expect her to be drumming up business around the globe.
“I’d very much like to go to Israel. I would like to go to India, Pakistan and South American countries. That’s a lot of travel but we have said … we’re making (increased international trade) very much one of the cornerstones of our economic strategy.”

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