|Something new and exciting is happening at the Trade Section of the Canadian embassy in Bangkok! It’s full of life, its results driven, and it’s achieving its objectives. Mike Ward is the team leader who, over the past two years, has motivated his colleagues and staff to successfully bring together Canadian and Thai business interests. His team is not only energizing the embassy, but Canadian business interests both here and in Canada. If Mike were a hockey player, he'd be the guy you send out on the ice to mix things up when your team was dragging its butt. He brings so much energy and enthusiasm to his job that it's contagious.|
Mike is an Ottawa type of guy - that's where he was born and raised, that's where he met his wife, Kathy, and that's where two of his three children, Christopher and Alison, were born (the third, Nicholas, was born in Saudi Arabia). Mike kicked off his career in the Trade Commissioner Service in the early 1980s by doing policy work. This included traveling to Geneva where he was part of Working Groups that looked at international rules in place for such trade issues as anti-dumping and countervailing duties and, for special measures and protection where countries would impose quotas to protect their domestic industries.
He got his first glimpse of Thailand in the mid-1980s when he traveled throughout the region with a Canadian delegation involved in textile restraint negotiations. The object of those negotiations was to limit imports of textile and clothing products into Canada from low-cost exporting countries such as Thailand. As Mike recalls, "The first time I stayed in Bangkok, the Regent Hotel was called the Peninsula, and the embassy was located on Silom Road." Mike brought his family to Thailand for a vacation in the summer of 1993, just after Nick was born, spending a week in Bangkok and a week in Phuket.
Mike assumed his position as Canada's Senior Trade Commissioner to Thailand in August of 1999. But he and his family have been out of Canada for ten years now. From 1991-95, he was the section head of the Trade Department with the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh. Then, from 1995-99, he went to the Canadian consulate general in Chicago, where he switched roles entirely to manage the Political and Public Affairs program. In Chicago, he handled issues ranging from lobbying U.S. Midwest politicians to secure more favorable market access for Canadian exporters, to launching a highly publicized campaign to build U.S. support for Canada's initiative to ban the use of landmines. That campaign involved partnering with key religious organizations and medical groups located in the U.S. Midwest, and resulted in Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister making two visits to Chicago to promote Canada's landmine objectives.
But why did Mike choose this line of work? "Because the work is so
interesting and varied and, because there is so much potential to make things happen. We can really serve Canada's interests. Take, for example, the Canada-Thai trade relationship. There is a lot that the embassy can do to increase Canada's commercial presence here.
How? "From 1995-99, Canada's exports to Thailand fell by about fifty percent. This started well before the crisis, so there was something fundamentally wrong. We had to ask ourselves why Canadians weren't coming here. I took this as a challenge. One of the outcomes was that my team and I created a whole series of market reports that identify a number of sector and niche opportunities for Canadian businesses to pursue in Thailand. We put these studies on our webpage, and today we have more market reports on our webpage than any other Canadian embassy. We've also doubled our outreach, both here and in Canada, and we have published articles about market opportunities in publications like CanadExport, which my Department distributes to thousands of Canadian businesses every month. This is all in line with the 'New Approach' of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service that is geared at providing market intelligence and other value-added information and services for our clients".
What else is the embassy doing differently these days? "There's a sourcing system called the International Business Opportunities Center (IBOC) that was established by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. We have made full use of IBOC by identifying opportunities here for Canadians to pursue. For example, during outreach with a local Thai business, an officer from the Trade Section may learn about a requirement for a particular product or service. He or she will then contact IBOC and provide details on what is required. Within the space of a week, IBOC will come back with a list of Canadian firms willing and able to do the work. Every Canadian embassy and consulate around the world submits requests to IBOC, but we are the third largest user out of all Canadian missions, and the largest in this region. In fact, we submit more leads to IBOC than our
counterparts at Canadian missions in Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore and Jakarta."
"We are also strong promoters of CIDA's Industrial Co-operation Program (INC), which provides money for feasibility studies to assess potential commercial initiatives. Eight new potential projects have been identified by Trade Section staff this year alone."
Canada's exports to Thailand have traditionally been commodity products, but they are now shifting increasingly into the advanced technology sector, particularly for goods and services related to telecommunications, computers and geomatics, e.g. remote sensing and ground station upgrades.
Canadian success stories in Thailand include: SNC-Lavalin's $110 million turnkey project with PEA for a system to monitor electrical networks; significant advances by Nortel into the Thai Internet market; and sales by SR Telecom of its wireless communications technology. These are just a few examples of Canada's growing hi tech commercial presence in Thailand. Check out the embassy's website at: www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/bangkok (then click on International Business Development) to get a full list of all the Canadian companies that have entered into successful ventures here over the past few years.
But why are Thais doing business with us? "Canadian companies have a very solid reputation here, they have staying power and, Thais respect our technology and expertise. For example, the National Research Council has done a great job of keeping in close contact with Thai counterparts over the years and in exchanging information. This all culminated in the recent signing of two MOUs, one with the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) and the other with the Thailand Research Fund(TRF). The result will be increased work for Canadians, and more training and technology transfer for Thais. This is a win-win situation."
Please tell us a little bit more about your relationship with the Ambassador and your staff? "We have a very good team here. Ambassador Giroux sets out the overall framework and direction in which he would like to go, and then we work to achieve those objectives. Remember, I can't do this all on my own, I can be a catalyst - but it's definitely a team effort, and we have a great team. I also ensure that anyone who does good work gets the recognition. And I don't just tell them and leave it at that. I tell other people what a great job staff have done on particular issues.
What has been the key to your recent success? "Based on the 'New Approach' of the Trade Commissioner Service, we developed a Business Plan with two goals and six key objectives. Our first goal was to make the Bangkok Trade Section a center of excellence in serving the Canadian business community as measured by the Trade Commissioner's Client Survey. And eighty-two percent of those surveyed in the latest poll said that our service had increased - the average increase for all embassies was thirty-seven percent. Our second goal was to increase Canada's exports from CAN$300 at the 1999, to CAN$500 at the end of 2003. We are well on our way there now, considering that Canadian exports were up by 23% last year, and that they have increased by a further 24% so far this year.
the Bangkok Trade Section been so successful? "Shortly after I arrived
here, I arranged for the whole team to get together for a day-long brainstorming
session outside the office. I had a fairly good idea of what needed to be done,
but I also needed to get the views and support of the staff. So, we sat down
with a whiteboard and a flipchart and used a facilitator approach to come up
with our Business Plan. Some excellent suggestions came out of those
discussions, and everyone participated: Canadians, Thais, officers and support
staff. Then, after we had prepared our first draft of the Business Plan, we
invited the TCCC to come in and we said 'since you are our going to be one of
our major partners, tell us what we have missed and how we can improve our
service'. That was a very useful meeting, and it resulted in important additions
and modifications to our Plan.
Who else has helped increase our trade presence here? "Various TCCC members such as Peter van Haren, Kiat Sittheeamorn, Pascale Prud'homme, Ron Pasternak, Sam Cohen, Sean Brady, Karsten Westphal, Luc Metivier, Ian Woo, Andy Burns and Saranyoo Chanate have all helped tremendously. But I have to single out Peter, who has been outstanding in terms of helping to advance Canada's commercial objectives in Thailand.
give you an example. One of the first things I had to do after arriving here in
1999 was prepare for a review of Thai trade policy issues by the World Trade
Organization (WTO). This sort of exercise happens every few years for each WTO
member. It's a way of ensuring that countries stick to their trade
liberalization commitments - that there are no undue barriers to accessing the
local market. As part of the process, the WTO invites trading partners to submit
comments regarding the targeted country. Canada had never submitted much
information for prior WTO reviews of Thailand. In fact, when we went through our
files, we could find very little in terms issues identified by Canadian
“So, what we decided to take a pro-active approach and to sit down with the TCCC to see if there were any issues they could help to identify. People like Peter Forget of Nortel, Gary Forbes of SR Telecom and Ron Livingston of IEM provided very important sector-specific advice on some key policy issues. But over and above that, Peter van Haren helped give the submission the depth and substance that made it truly impressive. Since that time I have worked closely with Peter on a number of other important joint embassy/TCCC initiatives, always with impressive results. He is a true professional. He and other TCCC members contributed substantially to the success of the Canada-Thailand Bilateral Economic Commission (BEC) meeting in Ottawa last September."
tell us a little about the BEC and how you have tried to revitalize it?
"Well, the Canada-Thailand Bilateral Economic Commission was established in
1988 as a means to increase trade and economic ties between the two countries.
Meetings are held once every 18-24 months and they are co-chaired by senior
officials on both sides. While previous BEC meetings had succeeded in raising
Canada's profile with Thai officials, not much else had been accomplished in
recent years, and that's not surprising given the impact of the economic crisis.
However, it was also apparent that there was no major input by business
interests. In essence, the BEC provided an opportunity for officials to exchange
views. I think one thing we learned from the WTO review exercise was the
importance of input from the private sector.
advance of last year's BEC, which was held in Ottawa, we organized a
Thailand-Canada Business Forum in Bangkok. Nothing of the sort had been held
before, so it required a lot of innovation and groundwork to establish a
steering committee, and then to plan a program, develop a participants list, and
generate interest. We established three Working Groups, one for trade promotion
in general, one for the energy & environment sectors and another
for information and communications technologies.
70 Thais and Canadians from the private and public sectors participated. Thai
private sector participants included Dr. Jingjai Hanchanlash from Loxley, Dr.
Sarasin Viraphol from CP Group and Khun Surapee Rojanavongse from the Gaysorn
Group, all of whom have been very supportive in promoting closer Thai-Canada
commercial relations. The Thai MFA and other key ministries also played
prominent roles at the meeting. As a result, we identified action plan items
that were subsequently tabled at the BEC meeting in Ottawa. It was all a
tremendous success and we plan to hold another Forum meeting in advance of the
next BEC. I believe that the next Forum meeting will be even more focused and
Thailand is now the fastest growing market for Canadian exports to ASEAN. This is remarkable when you consider the past history of Canadian exports here, and the fact that Canadian exports to every other ASEAN country have decreased. A large part of that growth is due to Mike Ward. He has such an infectious energy that after meeting him, you just want to go out and accomplish something. He's a can do guy, and he's getting things done. The Canadian community owes him a debt of gratitude for helping to energize our
mission and presence here.
Tel: (662) 636-0560, ext.# 3350, 636-0540
Fax: (662) 636-0568