By John G. Jung, CEO, CTT
I never thought of a Garden EXPO to be important or a major international economic development driver, but I must admit that I was wrong.
The Chongqing Garden EXPO is more than a garden expo site; it is a major regional investment covering 2.2 square kilometres that provides a permanent regional park in the community; it is a domestic and international tourist attraction and adds to the economy of the region through jobs and innovation in landscape and environmental design. It also helps significantly in building and maintaining international relationships. In short, its wow factor is as significant as any of the mega events on a regional and global stage. Its goals include developing innovation in mountain and river garden designs and landscape development, as well as developing expertise in ecological, scientific and conservation design and development. Furthermore, the Chongqing Garden EXPO covers garden floral, natural ecology, leisure and cultural tourism, interactive amusement, art and design as well as business and trade exchanges. It also seeks to develop a platform for collaboration among its international partners, especially sister cities and friendship cities. Learning to share resources, participating in exchanges and developing partnerships and other cooperation seem to loom large in their programs. In previous years the China International Garden EXPO took place in Dalian (1997), Nanjing (1998), Shanghai (2000), Guangzhou (2001), Shenzhen (2004), Xiamen (2007) and, Jinan (2009).
The City of Waterloo signed a friendship agreement with Chongqing in December 2009. CTT, area universities and private sector partners have been back numerous times since and we have benefitted from many large delegations and training programs coming to the Waterloo Region in the past two years. Waterloo was invited to open a park in this massive garden project. It sent its designers a few months back to check on its progress and this week, the Waterloo delegation, headed by Mayor Brenda Halloran visited the completed garden. CTT participated and used its CTT-WLU offices to assist in the coordination of the visit. The delegation found a familiar sight in the form of a small replica of Waterloo Park with its gates and columns. The delegation beamed with pride. The Mayor of Chongqing passed in his motorcade and waved to our delegation. The Chongqing Foreign Affairs Office also beamed with pride on their accomplishment. This was definitely a day of brownie points for Waterloo in relationship building between our two cities and regions. >> View 360 Degree panorama of the Waterloo Park Victorian Garden Replica
The day was a celebration of sights, sounds, good food and goodwill. Many of the other friendship and sister cities were there unveiling their gardens as well. Among them included Houston; Seattle; Cordova, Chile; Quebec City; San Francisco; Wales and Brisbane; among others. It was an opportunity to share stories and business cards among the international participants as well.
The delegation attended the day-long event, but there was also targeted business that took place on this trip. Several of our private sector partners such as Gowlings, Miller Thomson, Logikor and Christie Digital undertook business meetings and briefings with the Canadian Consulate while in Chongqing. The Universities met with their counterparts and with the Ministry of Education for successful discussions regarding student exchanges. I also gave a couple of presentations to Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications and to the Cloud Computing office of the Communications Ministry and the Chongqing Service Center (with whom CTT signed an MOU in May, 2011).
We all met with the Chongqing State-owned Asset Supervision and Administration Committee (with whom CTT also signed an MOU in September, 2011). This meeting further developed our program of developing some key projects and provided further information on investment opportunities in the Waterloo Region. Finally several of our delegation members met with the Foreign Experts group, a group that encourages sharing of information by foreign experts in China from abroad.
As we look to China as one of the economic drivers in the 21st Century it becomes clear that having a China strategy is important. Our strategy revolves around our relationship with Chongqing. Chongqing is the only municipality directly under the jurisdiction of the central government in the central and western part of China. The area is an extremely important modern manufacturing base, a transportation hub, and a mega-city focused on integrated urban-rural reform. Many of our industry sectors and our institutional interests come together in this part of China.
Developing relations in China happens in many different ways. They can’t be accomplished by just sharing a boiling hotpot and toasting each other with Moltai. It also can’t happen simply by coming once a year and disseminating business cards, even if they are in Mandarin. We have to look for many different ways to strengthen the relationship. The Garden Expo experience proved to me that a long-lasting point of connection in the form of a replication of the Victorian garden at Waterloo Park in Chongqing and the pride and linkages that are formed around this union are much deeper than one suspects on the surface. I expect that we will have many investment opportunities in the future on the strength of this effort alone.