Mayor to lead economic development mission to China, Thailand

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson will be adding to his frequent flyer points when he leads an economic development mission to China and Thailand this November.

Mr. Watson announced Wednesday he will be joined by Invest Ottawa CEO Bruce Lazenby and 15 local business leaders for a series of meetings in Beijing, which has been a sister city of Ottawa since 1999.

“The goal of this seven-day mission is to promote Ottawa as a leading innovation centre in Canada, to attract investment for Ottawa businesses and to encourage tourism to Ottawa ahead of 2017 when our country celebrates its 150th birthday,” the mayor said at a news conference on Wednesday morning.

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Invest Ottawa will organize and host an innovation seminar for Chinese investors and entrepreneurs. The delegation will also meet with Beijing municipal leaders, Chinese ministry of culture officials and the Canadian ambassador to China.

“We expect to have a number of important discussions about cultural exchanges and other opportunities related to 2017, the 150th anniversary of confederation,” Mr. Watson said.

The delegation will be in China from Nov. 16-19 before moving on to Thailand from Nov. 20-22.

The mayor and an Ottawa Tourism delegation will take part in the One Young World conference in Bangkok, an event that is second only to the Olympic Games in international participation. The conference is expected to bring together more than 1,300 youth leaders from 190 countries.

With Ottawa set to host the event in 2016, the delegation will be there to take part in the host city handoff at the closing ceremonies. It will also take away some ideas from the Bangkok hosting committee on how it should run next year’s event, which is expected to inject $2 million into the local economy.

“I can’t think of a better way to build our momentum towards 2017 than to welcome the world’s most passionate, ambitious and dedicated young people,” Mr. Watson said.

Mr. Watson’s expenses will be paid by Invest Ottawa and Ottawa Tourism. While he couldn’t say exactly how much the trip will cost taxpayers, the mayor balked at the suggestion it would be too expensive in light of the city’s ongoing deficit struggle.

“There are always going to be people who don’t want me to travel to Stittsville because it’s too expensive, but at the end of the day, these are good investments that bring back millions of dollars in economic activity and create more jobs,” he said.

Mr. Watson said local businesses benefit from creating relationships with international partners. That means more jobs for the city and more economic growth.

“But these achievements are not handed out to those who sit at home. You need to reach out, collaborate and tell your story.”

Mr. Watson led a similar mission in 2013, when several foreign direct investment agreements and memoranda of understanding worth millions of dollars were signed.

“It is not surprising to see the number of companies interested in participating in this mission,” Mr. Lazenby said in a statement. “China continues to represent a massive opportunity for Ottawa companies.”

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