REPORTING · 21st April 2010
Peter King, in full Olympic Regalia, stood before Kitimat City Council on Monday, April 12th to speak to them about attracting Chinese investors to Kitimat. While he was working as a driver at the Olympics, he had an opportunity to promote Kitimat.
“One of the great volunteers I met used to work as a business consultant in China working to develop Chinese Canadian business connections. He has since immigrated to Canada and is working in Vancouver. We talked about Kitimat and it’s potential. He looked Kitimat up on Google Maps and was amazed Kitimat had not been developed,” said King.
King explained: for business with China, do not talk with their government, talk to the businesses in China who are currently seeing Canada as a gateway to the United States. If all three levels of the Canadian Government agreed to look at creating a free trade zone, China could build factories in Canada, import materials, build a product and ship it to the United States as a product made in Canada.
However, free trade zones have been criticized, according to King, because of the Tax Free Zones between the United States and Mexico resulted in people being treated like slaves and there was no consideration for laws or the environment.
In other countries, the factories are secured in the manner of a boarder crossing: the resources go in and the finished product comes out.
According to King, one of the boons for Kitimat are the town's natural hinterlands which are undeveloped. Finally, to bring these businesses over would require a 10 year tax break while they get started. He gave each of the Councillors a stuffed Olympic mascot, Quanchi.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff mentioned Free Trade Zones worked well in Europe. He wanted to know how they could move forward. King said Chinese businesses are skeptical of governments. They want to be invited. He added these facilities are larger than all the industry in Kitimat put together and they were looking for high end manufacturing, electronics which often have problems being shipped.
Councillor Randy Halyk said he was aware of the criticisms. Particularly in South America when these groups take the tax holiday and government grants and then leave when the time is up. He was concerned this was not sustainable. Halyk also talked about how this could be below minimum wage pay. King said the government had to enforce the laws. They would have to set the rules when the companies come. He was not certain how they would provide the tax holiday.
“There are millions if not billions of dollars waiting to come to Canada and they just need a gateway. They do not see Canada, necessarily as a market, but they see the US as a market and Canada as a way to get their products into the US through free trade,” said King.