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.

 

How has 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.

 

“Let me 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 businesses.

 

“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."

 

Can you 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.

 

“So, in 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.

 

“Over 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 results-driven."

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.

Contact Info:
Tel: (662) 636-0560, ext.# 3350, 636-0540
Fax: (662) 636-0568
Website: www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/bangkok

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