TORONTO — Amid all the economic gloom and doom comes a positive piece of news from Israel’s economic mission to Canada: trade between the Jewish state and this country has experienced a boom in 2008.
According to Jonathan Levy, left, the Toronto-based Israeli consul for
economic affairs and Israel’s trade commissioner to Canada, Israeli
exports to Canada rose 45 per cent in the period of January to
September of this year, accounting for nearly $828 million (US) in
sales and contracts, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
For the same period in 2007, Israel’s exports to Canada amounted to $580 million (US).
The results “stand out” in contrast to Israel’s trade with its “primary” global economic partners, including the United States, India, the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union, with whom trade has mostly been stagnant in 2008, Levy told The CJN last week.
While Canada’s profile as a desirable market for Israeli companies and investors is still somewhat under the radar back home, that’s slowly changing, Levy said.
“Trade between Israel and Canada is quite diverse, and doesn’t depend on only one sector,” he said. “But the majority of [positive trading] change is being conducted in the hi-tech sector.”
Levy, whose mission is, in part, to facilitate partnerships between Canadian and Israeli businesses, pointed to two recent announcements by Canadian companies that decided to invest heavily in Israeli tech.
In late October, Research in Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry Partners Fund – a $150-million venture capital fund – announced an $8-million investment in the Israeli firm WorldMate, a developer of mobile software applications.
Around the same time, a joint announcement by Bell Mobility and Solo Mobile trumpeted an investment in Uniper Ltd., an Israeli tech firm that specializes in developing “content access control” software. Uniper’s software is intended to help parents limit mobile-phone access to questionable or inappropriate Internet sites that could be browsed by their children.
The two announcements represent just the tip of the iceberg in potential trade between Canada and Israel, Levy said.
Another Israeli tech company, Nexperience, which makes software that allows remote testing of mobile devices, has already had its application adopted by BlackBerry, Levy said.
The hi-tech industry “is an area where there is a chance to really multiply [business] opportunities,” he added.
Levy said that although there have been instances of notable Israeli business success in Canada, namely in the telecom industry with companies such as AmDocs, “in Israel, we know we’re pioneers in information technologies [such as] firewalls, voice mail, encryption, disk-on-key… but many Canadians aren’t aware of them.”
He said his office has been working hard “on a very, very lean” budget, to create meetings between Israeli and Canadian companies since he started in his post a little more than a year ago.
Though there are many projects on the go, Levy said it’s necessary to take a long-term view of the potential growth in trade between the two countries.
In February, Levy’s office will host a major trade show, tentatively called “Banking on Israeli IT.”
“Banks and insurance companies all rely on [information technology] and have needs for greater security, encryption protocols and improving the user experience in mobile banking,” he said.
“Israel has a strong reputation in this… and there’s a lot of virgin territory here for Israeli information technology.”
Despite fierce competition in the tech market, Levy said Israel holds a competitive advantage over countries such as India and China. Multinational corporations such as Microsoft and Intel, which continue to invest in Israel’s hi-tech sector, recognize “the superior productivity and creativeness of Israeli tech companies,” he said.
He added that the current and future focus of Israeli tech for Canada and the world will be in the areas of life sciences, green technologies and water technology.
“Canada is a country blessed by water, but even it has its issues,” Levy said.
Last summer, Canada hosted the first-ever Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium on water protection, which saw more than 100 Israeli and Canadian scientists gather to discuss the environment and ways to adopt emerging technologies in both countries.
Israel was also well-represented at the Globe 2008 trade fair and conference on business and the environment, held last March in Vancouver, with eight representatives brought in by Levy’s office.
Levy said he anticipates that Canada will send a major delegation to Israel to participate in the country’s annual water technology conference, WATEC, scheduled for Nov. 17 to 19, 2009, in Tel Aviv.
“We’re raising awareness, providing hot leads and making a shidduch… between Israeli and Canadian companies,” he said, adding, “We’re in a time where companies are staying lean, but when you show them Israeli… technology that is years advanced from others, it’s a no-brainer.”