Montréal’s Valérie Plante talks economic ties with Japan
Valérie Plante made history on November 5, 2017, when she was elected the first female mayor of Montréal. Since then, the relative newcomer — her political career only began in 2013, when she was elected city councillor — has drawn attention for her bold plans to transform the city with an ambitious rail project and more affordable housing.
Plante isn’t just satisfied with making changes on the local front, though. At the beginning of June, she left Montréal for Japan on her first international economic mission. She began her trip on June 1, flying on Air Canada’s inaugural direct flight from Montréal to Tokyo, and visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, Osaka, and Kyoto, along with a delegation of businesspeople from Montréal.
In Hiroshima, Montréal’s sister city, the delegation celebrated the 20th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities.
On June 5, at the New Otani Hotel, Plante joined the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montréal and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan at a conference luncheon, under the theme of “Montréal: Creative Metropolis, City in Motion.”
Plante reminded her audience that the city she represents is not only a cultural powerhouse, but also an excellent location for doing business: “Our metropolis is recognized internationally for its creativity, its culture, festival, gastronomy, and its welcoming character. But, we are also a city with an outstanding business environment, a strategic hub for trade and investment.”
In fact, Montréal is notable in that it blends its creativity with business strength, a point that Plante emphasized: “A significant part of Montréal’s economy is defined by its creative and cultural industries, which are a combination of creativity, culture, technology and innovation. These include, in particular, architecture and design, fashion, multimedia, video games, and performing and digital arts. Montréal’s creative industry generates nearly 92,000 jobs and C$8.6 billion in economic spinoff in the greater Montréal area.” Plante said that the province of Québec ranks third, after Japan and California, in the development of video games and 3D animation techniques.
The shared economic ground between Montréal and Japan was a central point in the mayor’s remarks: “Montréal shares many common points of interest with Japan, in terms of economic development. One can think of clean technologies, artificial intelligence and life science just to name a few. As a global economic powerhouse, you present for Montréal a very high quality market in these sectors, and the potential for exchanges with our Montréal companies is remarkable in terms of business, higher education, innovation and tourism.”
“We are also a city with an outstanding business environment, a strategic hub for trade and investment.”
Plante alluded to the many Japanese companies that have opened branches in Montréal, such as Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi, Ltd., Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd. and Sumitomo Corporation, and she welcomed more: “To future Japanese investors, I want to send you a message of openness. I invite you to visit us, to make contact with Montréal International, which has a method of attracting foreign direct investment in our metropolitan area.”
As Plante pointed out, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership offers an unparalleled opportunity for Montréal to develop strong ties with Japan, and one that should be used to good advantage: “This agreement brings together 11 countries, 500 million people and a combined GDP of C$13.5 trillion. The partnership is one of the most important economic agreements in the world. It will allow our respective countries and cities to trade more freely. This economic mission is the first of its kind to Japan; following this agreement I am very proud of leading that first mission. The partnership offers an historic opportunity: let’s all seize it.”