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Big-city reps seek new trade in China

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REPRESENTATIVES of the 11 largest cities in Canada, including Winnipeg, are going to China to pitch investment in their communities.

The trade mission -- the first initiative of the Consider Canada City Alliance (CCCA) -- follows on the heels of a report Thursday that argues Canada's major cities deserve a say in policies and strategies to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) .

The report, commissioned by the cities and produced by the Conference Board of Canada, shows Canada's 11 largest metropolitan areas have a greater share of national inward FDI stock than their share of national GDP.

Alan Arcand, the economist who wrote the report, said, "The goal of the group (the CCCA) is to foster collaboration as much as possible -- to show that the real competition is not other Canadian cities, but other cities in the world."

The report says FDI has significant ripple effects for the economy and with a collaborative approach, Canadian cities will get a better profile around the world and ultimately attract more investment.

Greg Dandewich, senior vice-president of Economic Development Winnipeg, is making the trip to China.

"The cachet of Canada is powerful and we want to connect the metropolitan areas with that brand," Dandewich said. "The cities and the federal government believe it will bring us a lot of recognition in a very unique way."

The group will travel to Beijing, Chongqing and Guangzhou and will focus on investment opportunities in the information and communication technology and energy and environment sectors.

"Rather than compete with other cities across Canada to attract investment, we are all looking for ways to collaborate and strategically promote the country as a superior investment destination," Marina James, CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, said in a statement. "Our collective efforts will benefit the entire country and raise our profile amongst key international audiences."

Not surprisingly, the Conference Board study, called The Role of Canada's Major Cities in Attracting Foreign Direct Investment, found a well-functioning investment-promotion agency has also been found to drive growth in FDI inflows.

But it also admitted there are scant data on exactly how well such agencies work.

The study cites a 2004 World Bank report that showed "for each 10 per cent increase in the promotion effort, the level of FDI increased by 2.5 per cent."

It also showed global trends in FDI have shifted over the last few decades. For instance, between 1971 and 1980, the United States was responsible for 42 per cent of total global FDI outflows. Between 2000 and 2010, the U.S. still was the largest player, but its share fell to 19 per cent.

As well, in 1987 the U.S. was responsible for 69.9 per cent of total FDI in Canada, but in 2010, the U.S. presence was down to 54.5 per cent.

Not surprisingly, the study also showed emerging markets are playing a much larger role both in inward and outward flows of FDI.

While the emphasis behind the China trade mission is collaboration, Dandewich said there are opportunities for foreign investment in the Winnipeg area that would be highlighted.

"On the clean-technology side, there are all sorts of new technologies to invest in to create business opportunities that will have a benefit in terms of dealing with nutrient loading in Lake Winnipeg, which is a major challenge," he said.

EDW and the International Institute for Sustainable Development are working together to figure out how to create investment opportunities to create clean technologies to address impact on the lake.

"The nutrient-loading problem has the potential to create a commercial opportunity for new, clean technology," Dandewich said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2012 B6

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