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Hello Mr. Mizoguchi.

Is Manitoba ready for the rigors of foreign trading?

"HE'S HERE," WHISPERS AN AIDE. TWO SECONDS LATER, MICHIO MIZOGUCHI, sweeps into the Bankers Hall at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. Mizoguchi is Japan's Ambassador to Canada and this is his first, and most likely only visit to Winnipeg. It is a protocol visit. He's here to fly the flag of the Rising Sun and following his interview will give a breakfast speech. Only 17 people show up to hear from the most powerful trading nation on earth and several of them are from the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce.

A few days later and a few blocks away from the Chamber offices, Tony van Rosmalen looks surprised when told about the turnout. Van Rosmalen is the manager of the federal government's International Trade Centre in Winnipeg. He says there is a lot of interest in exporting.

1991 show Manitoba companies shipped $3.055 billion worth of goods and services. Just over 60 per cent was bound for the U.S. The next largest destination is Russia (now the Commonwealth of Independent States) which took a paltry 7.4 per cent of our exports. Japan is number three, followed by China, Belgium and the U.K. Last year the Trade Centre received more than 12,000 phone calls, many followed by counselling on how to export. About 1600 Manitoba companies are involved in exporting.

According to van Rosmalen, homework is one of the most important things potential exporters can do. "Exporting is like a courtship," he says. Like any courtship getting all the information you can in advance is the key before popping the big question.

Unicity Custom Brokers Ltd., in Winnipeg has first-hand knowledge of some of the troubles which can arise when trying to export. The company ships goods south of the border, primarily for Manitoba manufacturers.

Alan Kotowich, Unicity's director of sales and marketing explains: "One of the main problems is customs clearance. Exporters should clear their goods at the border crossing rather than inland. A one week delay is not uncommon once the goods are inland." That delay can be frustrating and expensive.

Another word of advice is to be very careful of the U.S. Customs operation at the Pembina border crossing. Kotowich says, "They don't have the volume to keep them busy, they have time to look and they are notorious for being nit-picky."

Ottawa isn't alone in trying to give exporters a leg up. Henry Goy runs Manitoba's Trade Branch and often accompanies business delegations abroad. Says Goy, "We're driven by our relations with the private sector. We work with them rather than trying to drag guys kicking and screaming into markets they're not interested in."

Last year 1800 Manitoba firms sought advice -- that's up from the year before, and Goy knows why. "Generally there's a greater awareness of exports due to the Free Trade Agreement," he says. "It's in the press so much that firms are thinking there may be opportunities in these markets they've never thought of before, but it could also be self-preservation."

One of the programs the Manitoba government offers is to cost share a booth with qualified companies at trade shows. Goy says since the late-1980's the number of Manitoba firms taking advantage of the trade show program has increased almost 100 per cent.

Canada does not just export goods and services. As a nation we send a lot of cash overseas, and many other countries are hungry for it -- particularly the United Kingdom. Current Canadian investment in the U.K. amounts to $12 billion. British investment in Canada tops $18 billion. According to Noel Guina, Deputy Consul General for the British Consulate-General in Toronto, 57 Canadian manufacturing companies have set up shop in his country in the last three years. One of the main reasons: "They get immediate access to Europe which will be the biggest market in the world next year."


The Japanese Consulate in Winnipeg will close its doors on December 30, exactly 36 years to the day after it opened.

Yuzuki Kaku, who drives a Lincoln and a Volvo, and plays polo at the Springfield Polo Club, will return to Japan for reassignment. Japan will open a trade office in Edmonton to field enquiries about doing business with Japanese companies. And while Mr. Kaku leaves many friendships behind him in Winnipeg, he also leaves us with some tough talk for Manitoba exporters who want to do business overseas.

Says Mr. Kaku, "Winnipeg is a nice, peaceful community and people are happy and friendly, but I want to see more dynamism in terms of trade and economic activity. As a friend of Manitoba I have to say that some people are rather content with the status quo. They have a large cottage on the lake, the best medical services in the world but how are you going to support it? You must be competitive, you must generate wealth."

And there is more. Says Kaku, "We always tried to provide as much assistance as possible, but there are limits to what we could do. We create the environment, but whether you can sell or buy depends on private initiative."

Kaku says that the Japanese Government doesn't involve itself in commercial negotiations. "You have to do that at your own risk. We are even careful in providing names."

One way of the ways to break into the Japanese market is to find a niche, says Kaku. "Niche markets in Japan are very, very big -- as large as the entire Canadian market."

Kaku feels there is much naivety among those who feel governments can fix everything. He says businessmen must do their own research to be successful in world markets.

And with a final flourish, the man who drives a Volvo and plays polo says that if you really want to get into the Japanese market in a big way you have to speak Japanese.

Sayonara Mr. Kaku.
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Title Annotation:includes related article; Michio Mizoguchi, Japan's ambassador to Canada; foreign trade promotion
Author:Ryan, Bramwell
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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