Canada's plastics industry must be proactive to compete in and with China, speakers said at a meeting held Oct. 26 at Expoplast in Montreal.
If it retreats to a defensive mode, the industry will miss out on opportunities, said Pierre Fillion, executive director of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association's Quebec region.
Canada is behind many other countries in expanding trade ties with China, according to Pierre Farah-Lajoie, president of of international consulting firm PFL International of Laval, Quebec.
Fillion and Farah-Lajoie were two speakers who focused on China in a meeting of CPIA's Quebec Mould Makers Council in Montreal. In post-show interviews they elaborated on themes they presented at the meeting.
``Chinese want to play the global capitalist game,'' Fillion said in a telephone interview. Canadian companies have lots of opportunities if they position themselves strategically in the Chinese market. Although companies have become used to doing business with the United States, Canada's largest trading partner, they are advised to look to Asia, he stressed.
Canadian companies might lose some of their domestic market share competing with China but they can offset that or more by competing in specialized goods in China. Fillion said Quebec processors might find specific opportunities in northeast China because of similarities in climate and geography to large sections of Quebec.
Canadian plastics processors will gain from a partnership CPIA has set up in China with PFL International. The partnership, based in PFL's office in Tianjen, will allow CPIA to offer a wider range of trade development services in Asia. It will leverage PFL's international experience to help meet CPIA member needs in the region, Fillion explained.
China has changed rapidly and is much more open to trade than it was before the nation joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, said Farah-Lajoie. Although China's government used to insist on foreigners taking part in joint ventures on Chinese soil, now foreign companies can set up within China without a Chinese partner, Farah-Lajoie explained in an interview.
``It's easier for money to flow in and out of China; the market is changing fast,'' he said. Willingness to allow foreign investment is pretty much universal in the country and not restricted to free trade zones.
Farah-Lajoie said it is difficult to compete by exporting finished products to China. Companies wanting to tap the Chinese market should manufacture there, he said.
Small companies wanting to set up in China should find a domestic partner. There is lots of opportunity for Canadian companies to bring their management and technical expertise there and work with a Chinese partner. Many Canadian plastics companies already have a big presence in China. Construction products extruder Royal Group Technologies Ltd., Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. and film extrusion equipment firms Brampton Engineering Inc. and Macro Engineering & Technology Inc. are among the firms that have invested there, according to Farah-Lajoie.
``We are in a united world now,'' Farah-Lajoie concluded. China offers a unique brand of capitalism with a vision to do business.
China exported C$721.3 million (US$605.9 million ) worth of plastic products to Canada in 2004 according to federal agency International Trade Canada.