China’s ambassador to Canada believes Chinese investors are undaunted by the Northwest Territories’ economic concerns.
Luo Zhaohui concluded a four-day visit on Monday, having admired the northern lights, toured Yellowknife and Inuvik, and travelled to the Arctic coastline at Tuktoyaktuk.
Speaking to Moose FM, Luo said issues like the territory’s high cost of living, gradual population decline and uncertain mining prospects were unlikely to dissuade future Chinese investors.
“Chinese people are quite optimistic about this territory,” Luo, formerly China’s ambassador to Pakistan, told us.
“Any province or country has its own problems and a business guy is usually seeking the profits.
“Here, I think this is just the beginning. Generally speaking, the economic situation here is quite good.”
NWT set to be twinned
No firm commitments on either side were announced as Luo’s visit came to a close, but there was much mutual praise and talk of future cooperation.
Premier Bob McLeod, a veteran of five trips to China, has made Asian investment and tourism a priority as his government looks for ways to stimulate the territory’s stagnant economy.
“When he goes back and talks to people from China – the businesses and tourists – it’ll be a much better opportunity to help facilitate in our interests,” said McLeod, referring to Luo.
McLeod also expects the next territorial government, following November’s election, to look at twinning the NWT with a Chinese province and increasing the money it sets aside to help investment reach the territory.
“We expect we’ll have to put more resources into our trade division in our economic development department,” said McLeod, “to deal with this increased business and an increase in Chinese investment opportunities.”
Luo said he had spoken with territorial representatives about oil, gas and other resource extraction in the NWT, as well as the Mackenzie Valley fibre optic line being constructed from Fort Simpson to the Arctic coastal communities.
“The trade and economic area is quite important,” said Luo. “As Chinese ambassador I always focus on this area of cooperation – it’s a win-win situation. Infrastructure conditions have improved a lot – I will mobilize, I will encourage more Chinese investment to this place.
“Chinese investment, in recent years, usually focused on the energy sector – especially Alberta. But we also get some criticism from media, I know that, because of so-called environment protection.
“From my side we are quite clear: we encourage Chinese investment to Canada but not only in the energy area.”
January 2015: NWT seeks federal help over China investment
In the past, the NWT has been criticized over the paperwork required to facilitate that investment and get businesses, and people, into the territory.
McLeod told Moose FM his government is working to open up immigration.
“This is something we’ve been working on for a long time. We worked very hard to find out what some of the problems and barriers were to getting Chinese investment,” said McLeod.
“Chinese businesses didn’t know what our investment strategies or taxation regimes were, or whether we had any programs to help facilitate Chinese investment, so now we are working with Chinese businesses that have shown tremendous interest.
“We have a number of programs: one is the nominee program, where the federal government has set a limit of 150 per year, and we would like to see that increase. We also have the entrepreneurial express entry program and have quite a number of applications we are dealing with already.
“We’re going to make very good partners with China.”