Asia Pacific Gateway - The Virtual Gateway

Not all the commercial sectors that have the potential to become part of the Asia Pacific Gateway involve the movement of merchandise or physical product. Financial services, research and development (R&D) and education services are each potential Gateway industries. In the case of financial services and R&D, there are steps that can be taken or need to be taken to move from potential to implementation. Linkages in the education sector are already strong and offer considerable potential for further growth.

Canada is not a major player in the global financial market, and the ability of Canadian banks to finance growth industries and help companies compete globally is slipping year by year. Stock exchanges are consolidating around the world, with more and more Canadian companies listing on NASDAQ. Vancouver has never been a robust financial centre. Although the International Finance Center in Vancouver continues to try to attract companies and support the financial services sector, there are few corporate headquarters in the city and companies tend to seek financing elsewhere. As job opportunities leave the city, so does work force talent.

Where there is a strong financial services sector, there is strong business. Vancouver, as Canada's Pacific Gateway, must decide whether it wants to compete in the global financial market and attract more investment, or if it can continue to outsource most financial services to other cities. The current 3% capital tax on financial institutions makes Vancouver non-competitive for such institutions, and is one area that can be addressed. A stronger financial sector could also help Vancouver attract a stronger corporate base, which in turn will develop a thriving local skilled labour force as well as attract talent from elsewhere. Vancouver also needs to fully capture some of the massive flow in remittances, while addressing the global security problems the remittances market can pose.

Research and development activities underpin economic growth and will be the driver of growth in future generations. Other countries have realized this. South Korea, for example, decided to become an R&D centre and now spends 4% of its GDP on R&D and uses its diaspora around the world as an R&D asset. China, India and Singapore are also taking the lead in investing in and developing R&D. Ireland, too, has entered the game and is moving from cheap manufacturing to becoming an R&D centre for Europe. Canada currently spends 1.8-1.9% of its GDP on R&D. Vancouver is home to many R&D branches, but few have grown to full capacity. Canada needs to be in this game and invest more in R&D development and application.

In the area of education, Vancouver and Canada have much to offer by way of supply of services and exports, as well as exchanges and academic relationships. Vancouver's educational institutions, from kindergarten to post-secondary institutions, are already accommodating many students from Asia. International graduate students are among the most desirable immigration candidates. Several BC institutions are already offering Canadian certification, such as the BC Dogwood diploma, through schools in Asia. There are numerous academic relationships between Canada and Asia, and Vancouver in particular boasts strong academic ties to Asian institutions through, for example, the University of BC and Simon Fraser University. There is great potential not only for more education exports to Asia, but also for increased linkages and exchanges that will in turn bolster R&D and research in strategic areas such as IT, bio-tech, language, and culture that will further support the Gateway.