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B.C. Canada Pavilion Opens In Beijing

Beijing's newest tourist attraction: B.C. Canada pavilion

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May 26, 2008

Beijing - Few people on the streets of Beijing took serious notice Thursday evening as a phalanx of Canadian dignitaries gathered for the official opening of the British Columbia Canada Pavilion on the edge of Tiananmen Square.

A teenager with his hair spiked to the heavens stopped for a moment on the sidewalk outside the Canadian compound to watch International Trade Minister David Emerson and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell prepare to open the pavilion for the mainly Canadian crowd gathered on its Douglas fir front deck. Most others on the street kept walking or riding their bikes, offering nothing more than a passing glance.

With the pavilion now open, though, Canadian officials expect the 21,000-square-foot facility to command attention. Between its stone's-throw location from Tiananmen Square and the 1,500 Chinese companies planning to use it to meet with their Canadian counterparts, the $14.7-million pavilion is expected to draw close to 400,000 visitors - and, in the process, broaden the exposure of Canada to both China and the world.

"Over the next months this will be a meeting place for people around the world who want to discover British Columbia, want to discover Canada and want to know they are invited to the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver," said Campbell.

"This is a terrific opportunity," added Emerson, "to really start to build momentum in the Canada-China relationship and to share with the Chinese people - with the people who come through this facility - what Canada is all about."

The time is ripe for the two countries to draw closer together, he said.

"When you look at Canada's share of investment into China, and China's share of investment into Canada, it's really not at the level you'd expect, given the importance and size of our respective economies."

His comments followed a call by the director-general of China's ministry of commerce for Canada to become a more pro-active trading partner. In a speech at a forum on the Asia Pacific Gateway Thursday morning, Wang Shouwen said Canada's level of trading with China isn't growing as fast as those of some of China's other trading partners.

Shouwen would like to see that change.

"The emergence of China-Canada trade requires efforts from both sides," he said, adding that Canada should consider dropping some of its trade barriers.

"It is important that both our countries adopt open policies for foreign investments and refrain from investment protectionism."

On Thursday night, Emerson said Canada is in a position to increase its trade with China significantly in the next four to five years, and that things like the British Columbia Canada Pavilion can only improve Canada's exposure in China.

Others present shared his exuberance for the pavilion and its role in fostering a more productive relationship. "This is going to be an amazing pavilion and it's a very creative display," said Beijing vice-mayor Cai Fuchao.

"It's great. Lots of different pieces of B.C. exposed in different ways, and that's exactly what it was supposed to do," said Vancouver Aquarium president John Nightingale, who is in China to help open an exhibit at the Beijing Aquarium.

"It's not stodgy, like some museums we know," he added.

On the pavilion's main floor there is an exhibition space the public can pay to see. It includes the five Chinese elements - metal, wood, water, fire and earth - as part of its theme. And it highlights B.C.'s natural beauty, economic strengths and first nations heritage.

On the second floor is a meeting space where Chinese and Canadian businesses can meet and connect.

Campbell announced the pavilion will also include a box where visitors can donate money for those affected by the Sichuan earthquake. He said the B.C. government will match every donation made before the pavilion closes in September.

Shortly after that announcement, Teck Cominco CEO Donald Lindsay said his company would start the donations with a contribution of $250,000.

Walking through the pavilion for the first time, Darcy Rezac, managing director of the Vancouver Board of Trade, said: "I think it's outstanding. It's a spectacular display of British Columbia and what we do. Not only does it complement the outstanding physical qualities of our province but it really captures well the industrial mix and all we offer to the world.

"I think it will draw visitors and, hopefully, I would expect it will draw a lot of business opportunity and investment, as well."

Beijing's newest tourist attraction: B.C. Canada pavilion

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