So Fast! Canada-HK trade agreement announced at APEC

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Business community all smiles as Canada and Hong Kong conclude a new trade agreement. HT looks at the different styles of announcement and the deal. (Pictured – Canadian CG in HK, Ian Burchett (l) announces new deal as Chair of Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, John Witt, is all smiles.)

On May 23, 2015, a very relaxed looking Gregory So, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development met with Canada’s Minister of International Trade, the Honourable Ed Fast, to announce the signing of a new trade agreement during the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting last week.

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SO FAST! The Canadian version of the photo shows a barong tagalog bedecked Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast, with former Canadian and Hong Kong’s relaxed Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So. (Photo: DFATD)

The deal is known as a Foreign Investment and Protection and Protection Agreement in Canada (FIPA) and as an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement in Hong Kong (IPPA). It seems Hong Kong is  not so fussy about the ‘foreign’ and more interested in the ‘investment’.

The deal is international, but their press releases speak to their domestic audiences.  Hong Kong’s stresses two way investment flows: Canada is Hong Kong’s #18 investor with a stock of $31.5 billion HKD (almost $1,000 HKD per Canadian) and Hong Kong’s #9 destination for outbound investment is $73 billion, or about $10,500 HKD per Hong Konger. The online release is the typical Hong Kong government barebones release with a tiny, super low resolution photo (95kb) of the two speaking with their aides assiduously taking notes.

The Canadian press release leads with a picture of the two top dogs only, looking relaxed and confident with Minister Fast going native in a Filipino barong tagalog, part of the APEC tradition to take pics in local garb.  The content stresses improving working conditions for Canadian companies abroad in terms of transparency and fairness, dispute resolution and protection from discriminatory and arbitrary practices.  It then gets in a plug for the government of the day and its commitment to “ensuring that Canadian investments are protected in global markets.”

Hong Kong photo shows Ministers beavering away on a deal. Credit: HK Government.
Hong Kong photo shows Ministers beavering away on a deal. (Credit: HK Government)

Hong Kong doesn’t worry all that much about protecting its companies abroad, where they seem to do pretty well on their own. However, concerns among the Canadian public about (un)fair treatment in China may spill over into a general wariness of business abroad and in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia as well. The government needs to speak to those concerns.

In terms of style, the Hong Kong government seems to go out of its way to not look like they are spending money on exotic trips or flashy PR moves, but want to look like they are working.  Mostly only people who matter are interested (like readers of HT) and the general public is not really invited to take an interest. The release doesn’t even have a follow up contact.

The Canadian style is to lead with people (who are always up for re-election, including this year) with a casual look (very Canadian), making real achievements to help the economy.  The barong tagalog picture will no doubt also feature when campaigning for the Filipino vote in Canada,  one of the largest ethnic minority voting blocs in Canada.

Also, note the pins on the collars – for ministers only for security, no doubt.

Optics aside, what does the deal really deliver? The next stage, given how these things work, are the housekeeping details – producing multi-lingual versions, checking against other laws. The current text isn’t  public yet. There’s a long way to go to ratification and action, so stay tuned.

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Canadian Consul General Ian Burchett digging in on a possible future beneficiary of the trade agreement, the famous Schwartz’s smoked meat of Montreal, coming to soon to Hong Kong. (Photo: provided.)