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Ontario Exports

Seminar in Kitchener

article and photos
by Herwig Wandschneider

Herwig Wandschneider

Ontario Exports Inc (OEI), in cooperation with the Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce Inc, and the Consulates of Austria and Switzerland, held a seminar on "Doing Business in Germany, Austria and Switzerland". The seminar raised a great deal of interest in the Waterloo Region business community, judging by the attendance of well over a 100 businessmen and women.

Laura Vasarais [Photo: Herwig Wandschneider]Chaired by Laura Vasarais (who is in charge of Northern Europe for OEI), the seminar was structured to cover comparative statistical information for each of the countries, the major industries involved in export and import, and comments about current economic conditions. The country presentations were informative and well received. For Germany the presentation was given by Bernd Hoehne, Vice President of the Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, (filling in for Uwe Harnack, President, who was detained), for Austria by Karl Schmidt, Consul for Austria, and for Switzerland by Karl Hagmann, Deputy Consul General of Switzerland.

f.l.t.r.: Leonore Clauss, Karl Hagmann, Karl Schmidt & Bernd Hoehne [Photo: Herwig Wandschneider]

Dr. Schmidt drew a rather joyful parallel between Austria and Canada in that both have to live with an elephant as a neighbour with several similar population and other ratios and both have a beautiful country. However, he cited alas a few differences!

An attentive audience [Photo: Herwig Wandschneider]

Much of the trade between Ontario and the German-speaking countries is considerably tilted in favour of the German-speaking countries (depending on the country, Ontario imports 2 to 8 times as much as it exports, 3 times as much when you look at the European Union as a whole). What is even more alarming, imports from Europe keep increasing, while exports to Europe are flat (with Germany and Austria) or even decreasing (with Switzerland).

There clearly is a significant need to boost Ontario exports, which OEI actively encourages and supports. The Seminar made clear that Ontario must do more than bathe in the comfort of its exports to the USA, namely it must diversify. As an Operational Service Agency of the Provincial Government, OEI is intended to facilitate the mechanisms to accomplish trade diversification to Ontario’s benefit. Guided by a Private Sector Board of Directors, it appears well structured to accomplish this task.

OEI was originally part of the Ministry of Economic Development & Trade and then ran under the name Ontario International Corporation. It was renamed to OEI in 1998 under the Harris Government and was incorporated into the Superministry of Enterprise Opportunity & Innovation, when the latter was formed in April 2002 with Hon. Jim Flaherty as Minister.

The seminar did bring across loud and clear messages of support from the Provincial Government to Ontario enterprises, particularly for small manufacturing enterprises, and provided all relevant and welcoming contact information. Key services of OEI:

help Ontario Exporters find new customers

provide counselling, market intelligence and advocacy

showcase Ontario products at home and abroad

Major components of Ontario’s International exports are 50% in Auto products, 22% in Machinery and Equipment and 15% in Industrial Goods. Other opportunities for Ontario Exporters to German-speaking countries were presented to be in


Information Technology


Consumer Goods

Medical & Health Products

Environmental Engineering/Products

Sporting Goods & Apparel

to name a few. A follow-up seminar should spell out in more detail what it is that Ontario produces that Europe needs and which Ontario products have an edge over those produced elsewhere (or for that matter can be developed best in Ontario). This part of the seminar came in a little short, however it is clear that direct contact with OEI and the various consular offices will provide support to individual enterprises to analyze the potentials.

Interesting was also the presentation by Leonore Clauss, President of Communications International (www.communicating.org) in Toronto. She highlighted cultural differences, and not just those that are visible. They are merely the tip of the iceberg. The less visible under-the-water differences are the ways of thinking and existence. For German-speaking attendees this was not a surprise and they are of course well positioned to generate trust due to common heritage and language. No question that language is a prime component of trust and confidence, even if the potential client uinderstands English or French well.

The case studies presented by Dr. A. E. Dixon of Waterloo-based Biomedical Photometrics Ltd. ( www.genefocus.com/ ) (Custom Imaging Systems based on the patented Macrosope) and Kelly McLachlin of Stratford-based Novatronics (www.novatronics.com ) (Aviation and Space Products) were illuminating. Success stories of exporting new products can sometimes be tinged with disappointments as in the case of Biomedical Photometrics’ experience with a Swiss company, which bought a prototype "Macroscope" from them and then had it produced in significant numbers by a European manufacturer. The Waterloo company, spawned when Ted Dixon was Professor at the innovative University of Waterloo, developed into a successful operation anyway.

Booths set up by the presenters were helpful and provided additional literature and information. OEI and the presenters are clearly waiting to have the phones ring off the hook to develop a bit more balance into the import/export statistics and to help make more Ontario companies become successful exporters. Waterloo Region businesses appreciated the effort as evidenced by the attendance and the numerous extra chairs required to accommodate unregistered guests.


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