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Amir Gissin, Israeli Consul General, Toronto

Israel to Open Economic Trade Office in Calgary

By Rhonda Spivak

The Israeli government’s Economic Mission to Canada for the first time ever will be opening up an office in Calgary to service Western Canada. 

"We feel that when we have an office in Calgary, that there is huge potential to increase trade between Israel and Western Canada. We want to give Israeli companies the chance to find Canadian partners and vice versa," Israeli Consul General told the Winnipeg Jewish Review.

The head office for Israel’s Economic Mission, whose mandate is to promote trade, investment opportunities and joint ventures between the two countries, is  in Toronto and there is also an office in Montreal.

Jonathan Levy, Israel’s trade commissioner noted that bilateral trade between Canada and Israel has been on the rise, now amounting to “about 1 and a half billion dollars, with a surplus to Israel, meaning that Israel exports more to Canada than she imports.”

“We realize that without an on the ground presence in Western Canada, it is difficult to achieve the business results that we want to achieve. We are missing a lot of opportunities that we can capitalize on,” he said.

One of the reasons that Calgary was chosen for what  Levy described as this “pilot project” is that the Calgary Economic Development Centre and [the three-time] Mayor of Calgary David Bronconnier   have been actively promoting their city as a place for conducting international business.
“They are creating an international centre and providing office services in a very accommodating way, that will give us good access to the economic organizations of the city. Israel is one of the first countries that are going to try this model, and the City of Calgary is very eager to have us come aboard,” said Levy.

The decision by Israel’s Foreign Ministry to open up an office for economic trade in Calgary is the result of ongoing discussions that Gissen and Bronconnier began having over half a year ago.

According to Levy, Israel will be looking to form partnerships with Canadian companies in the fields of   “IT, medical devices, and clean-tech [environmental technology]  in areas such as water and renewable energy.”

After noting that “more than 95% of all labtop computers have been designed in Israel” and that the “Blackberry has an Israeli heart”, Gissen told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that “ it is only natural for Canada to look to Israel in the high tech field.”

He added, “In  a sophisticated world every country is looking for strategic partnerships…Calgary is a very good fit for  these type of partnerships.”

According to the Calgary Economic Development website, “over half of Alberta’s fastest growing companies are in Information and Communications Technology…Calgary is the home to the largest number of technology start-ups per capita in Canada.”

Gissen also pointed out that “The Israeli and Canadian economies have one thing in common-both focus on American markets.  The difficulties in the U.S. market have caused Israel and Canada to look less towards the U.S and more towards each other.”
Jonathan Levy
Jonathan Levy, Israel’s
Economic Trade Commissioner

When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review whether other Middle Eastern countries were opening similar offices in Calgary, Levy said, “No, to the best of my knowledge, we are the first ones.”

Levy noted that the person hired to staff the Calgary office, “will not be a [government] diplomat”, but rather a local, non-Israeli professional person who is familiar with the Western Canadian business scene…”

At this time, Levy indicated that “We are beginning the process of interviewing potential candidates for the position.”

He also said that “if the pilot project” works in Calgary, it is possible it will be replicated in other cities in Canada.  Additionally, he noted that the choice of Calgary "was made for business reasons only," and was not a “political” decision.

“Our efforts will be a systematic.  We are going to screen who would be good counterparts, potential partners, and we will look for mutual benefits.  We will measure our results. If we find it is a successful model, it could be duplicated.”

Although the Jewish community in Calgary is relatively small, Gissen said that was not a factor in the decision to open an office in Calgary. “We’re coming to Calgary to do business,” he said.

Versions of this article will appear in the Canadian Jewish News and Vancouver Jewish Independent.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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