The Honorable Sergio Marchi, Canadian Minister for International Trade welcomed
over 300 delegates to Toronto in his opening address at the first-ever Canada-U.S.A.
Businesswomen's Trade Summit. It was a week filled with an intense agenda (May 17 - 21, 1999).
The delegates came from all parts of North America to share their knowledge, to co-
operate, to do business and, indeed, to lead the world model of cross-border collaboration.
It was interesting to learn that in Canada women own or operate 30 percent of all businesses, providing 1.7 million jobs. That's more than our top 100 companies combined. In fact, women are creating jobs at four times the national rate.
The start-up rate of women-owned businesses is almost equal to that of businesses owned by men. It is expected by next year about half of Canada's new companies
will be started by women.
Women are fueling the growth in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in
this country and contributing both to the balance of trade and to the national prosperity.
Canadian and American women are looking beyond their respective borders to compete internationally. They recognize opportunities exist as they increasingly
link their success in the international markets.
As the year 2000 approaches, Canadian women entrepreneurs are prepared to look
beyond their borders for new and exciting opportunities for partnerships and new markets. They are looking due south to the United States. This is a logical target for
Canadians to focus on.
In his opening address, the Honourable Sergio Marchi, Minister for International Trade
outlined many of the initiatives our government has taken to ensure that women exporters get the much needed assistance that is required to do business internationally.
In 1997, he personally lead the first-ever Canadian Women's Trade Mission to Washington. At that time he learned the government needed to do more for women exporters. Government has recognized the importance of additional outreach programs, particularly trade missions to connect more Canadian businesswomen with their services and with potential markets in the United States.
Their desire to follow through and take a lead role has been apparent. The first-ever Canadian Women's Mission to the World Bank and the International American
Development Bank in Washington in March 1998, a Businesswomen's Mission to Chicago in January 1999, a Businesswomen's Mission to Los Angeles in March 1999 and a Women's Information Technology Mission to the Federal Office Systems Exhibition in Washington in April 1999 are other outreach initiatives the government has been involved with.
The highlight of Honourable Sergio Marchi's opening address was the signing of a Joint
Declaration between Canada and United States for a commitment to action, representing what both governments must do to support businesswomen beyond their own borders. It is the government's intent to support and involve businesswomen from around the world in a similar dialogue to foster a more favourable business environment for North American businesswomen globally.
All politicians and delegates recognized that this summit was the beginning of a long
journey, a starting point of an exciting week of events and to new relationships.
Both the Canadian and American governments partnered with private enterprise to host the summit. Key sponsors included the Royal Bank, Federal Express, IBM,
Bell Canada and Export Development Corporation.
William Daley, U.S. Department of Commerce, Sergio Marchi, Canadian Minister of International Trade, and Aida Alvarez, administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration co-chaired this event.
The week's agenda was jam-packed with mini seminars including presentations from
government, financial, legal, and private sectors. Various speakers including Raymond
Chretien, Ambassador of Canada to the U.S., Gregory Johnson and Gordon Giffin U.S.
Ambassadors to Canada, John Manley, Minister for Industry Canada, and Hedy Fry, Secretary of the State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women in Canada. Each brought greetings and words of encouragement for the participants of the summit. Once all the formal presentations were received, we the delegates were able to get down to the business at hand of networking and learning how to do business internationally.
All delegates took part in various roundtable policy discussion groups with a focus of
"making exporting easier". This was an opportunity for delegates to air their concerns and recommendations and to develop policy guidelines. Ministers Sergio Marchi, Aida Alvarez, John Manley, Ambassador David Aaron and each delegate received a copy of the final summary of presentations.
Many individuals identified that the entry process between Canada/U.S. should be
standardized. It was recommended that custom officials needed further training to apply regulations in a consistent and standardized way at all points of entry. Improved information flow re. NAFTA point-of-contact for each country, and government web sites should be publicized in the blue pages of the phone book. To eliminate users fees
for government-provided services (inspections, etc.) and eliminate generalized sales tax (GST) for American exporters who are eligible for reimbursement would be welcomed by business travellers.
For persons seeking temporary business entry, a special Canada/US border arrangement where there is greater flexibility should be established. A document which
provides clear, easily accessible information on do's and don'ts of temporary business entry, including rights and legal recourse in case of difficulties should be available. Creation of a simple, pre-approved clearance mechanism for each temporary business entry. Delegates wanted the categories under the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to be expanded. Government should establish an appeals process for the so-called "five year ban" on business entry into the U.S.
Businesswomen want to make use of women's business organizations and networks to
disseminate information and develop trade information resources on government trade
programs. They felt it necessary to incorporate in the training of current government employees what it means to run an export business. Content delivery standards across
all facets of government involved with trade information should be implemented.
Streamline, collate, organize, and maintain communications technologies in multi-media and multi-lingual formats of export information would be helpful.
Delegates were invited to submit items for the showcase/marketplace exhibit. This was
an opportunity for individuals to show their products/service to other delegates.
There was a continuous buzz of activity and networking for the whole event. At one point I tried to escape to the women's room...all I needed was a moment of silence. This was not to be, for even there the buzz continued. At the social events, the buzzing
continued. The only place that I had a moment of silence was on the early morning sub-way ride to the hotel. Most commuters were still sleeping. It was so nice....quiet, blissful..that I really enjoyed the ride, for it was a time to reflect and put some of the information gathered each day into prospective. It was amazing the energy, enthusiasm and general interest that all participants shared. This for me was an experience of a life-time.
For me personally, I found this exposure to other more experienced exporters, and entrepreneurs a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. I was able to meet face to face with individuals who were leaders in their communities. We were able to share with one another some of the challenges we each face in entering the international marketplace and in doing business. I have come back with several connections to further develop. In my particular field of expertise, it will be further down the road that I expect to see results of my participation. Each of the delegates were given a profile directory to further develop relationships. However, many delegates were able to sign cross-border deals before the end of the week.
It was so exciting! It is expected that many more deals will be signed within the year. To compile post summit results, summit organizers have set up a tracking system. They also realize the importance of continuing the summit by making it a yearly event.
As a businesswomen, I feel that this investment of time and dollars was well spent and I would advise others to apply for future summit opportunities. The experience has helped me to realize that I am on the right path. I have come home with a firmer commitment to looking to the international/national market for expansion. At this time in my career....it is time to take Totally-U Image Communications to the next level. I know that I can do it.
©1999 by Joan Kulmala. All rights reserved.
"Remember, Have Voice Will Travel, it's my opportunity to share the Totally You Experience"