MONTREAL — A memorandum of agreement for future exchange was signed between the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC), capping the weeklong economic mission to Israel and the West Bank led by Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay, which concluded Sept. 14.
“For our businesses and educational and research institutions, Israel offers tremendous business opportunity, whether for finding research partners, visionary investors, clients for inventions or new ideas to develop here at home,” said board president and CEO Michel Leblanc.
“This memorandum of agreement… will facilitate information exchanges and co-operation between our two organizations, as well as meetings and discussions, so that Quebec companies develop profitable partnerships with Israeli businesses.”
The mission included 48 representatives from Quebec businesses, as well as educational, research and innovation-promoting institutions. The board’s team of international trade experts, World Trade Centre Montreal and the City of Montreal organized it together with sponsorship from the law firm Heenan Blaikie, Peerless Clothing and the Quebec and Canadian governments.
FICC, with more than 5,000 members, is the largest Israeli association of businesses and organizations.
“The Israeli market is an exceptional one, because it represents the knowledge economy at its best,” Leblanc said. “Research and development activities account for a major share of public and private spending. Israel has the largest number of high-tech startups in the world after the United States, and entrepreneurs and inventors have access to many sources of venture capital.”
FICC president Uriel Lynn said he was pleased with the deal.
“We are delighted to have entered into this memorandum of agreement with an institution as prestigious as the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal,” he said. “The board has close to two centuries of history in Montreal, where the Jewish community makes a major contribution to the social and economic development of an open, harmonious society.”
He added, “We hope that many Montreal and Israeli businesses will take advantage of this partnership to form new commercial ties.”
Leblanc said the memorandum of agreement is “a concrete demonstration of the importance that both Israel and Quebec place on developing economic relations.” He applauded Tremblay for having recognized the potential of the Israeli market for Quebec.
The board, which has 7,000 members coming from businesses of all sizes, describes itself as the province’s leading private economic development organization.
Several other ententes were concluded between academic institutions, namely, McGill University and the Weizmann Institute of Science; Tel Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University; Université de Montréal and Hebrew University; and Polytechnique Montréal and the Technion.
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) staff member Jonathan Kalles termed the mission a “huge success,” in a telephone interview from Israel.
“I think the business people got a lot out of their individual meetings and everybody learned about the Israeli model,” he said. “The university people are in awe of the technology transfer, and want to work with [their counterparts] and follow the way Israelis do things.”
Kalles was surprised by Tremblay’s stamina. “He doesn’t want to eat or sleep, he just wants to pack in as much as possible.”
In addition to his already intensive schedule, Tremblay also met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, was hosted at the residence of Canadian ambassador Paul Hunt and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
In Be’er Sheva, he was particularly struck by a program to encourage young adults to remain in the Negev – one that is supported by the Montreal Jewish community through Federation CJA.
The delegation’s visit to the West Bank proved interesting. “They gave us an overview of the economy and business practices, and of the difficulties and their perception of who is at fault: Israel.”
But the delegation also visited the site of the first planned Palestinian city on the West Bank, Rawabi, about 20 minutes from Ramallah. Now under construction, it will be home to about 30,000.
The principal developer, Bashar Masri, told the Montrealers that he hopes many Palestinians living in refugee camps will buy homes with mortgages – a novel concept in Palestinian society.
Kalles said Masri intimated that he is not the most popular person with the Palestinian Authority because his aim is to improve the quality of life of Palestinians.
“The delegation was quite impressed with this,” said Kalles. “They were pleasantly surprised to see that, while the economic situation is difficult, it looks like there is a lot of growth, a lot of building. It’s a different perception from what they get in the media.”
Tremblay said the agreements reached will establish solid ties between Montreal and Israel, allowing for the sharing of expertise and the fruits of the partners’ collaboration.
“For me, it is a concrete demonstration… of the influence of our city abroad,” he said. “Moreover, this reaffirms the relevance and importance of our administration’s continuing to help our organizations open their doors to the world, notably by the organization of missions like this.”