Québec Connector

The new delegate general for the province in the western US looks back at his time in Tokyo

Diplomacy is a field to which David Brulotte has dedicated his career, and it has taken him around the world. The native of Québec City has studied and worked in Montréal, Paris, London, Singapore and Tokyo.

He initially came to Tokyo as the Asia-Pacific director for Invest Québec (IQ) four years ago, and for the past three years, he was the delegate general of Québec in Tokyo, while serving on the Board of Governors for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (CCCJ). This April, he became the delegate general of Québec for the western United States. 

But perhaps one of his earliest overseas experiences was in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, where he lived for a year between 2000 and 2001 as a Rotary exchange student. Being immersed in an environment where few spoke English — let alone any French — triggered his love for Japan and Asia in general. It was also a pivotal moment in his decision to pursue international relations, which has taken him from helping to spread the word about Québec tech companies to global audiences, to developing strategies to connect the province with key markets in the US and throughout Asia. 

While Brulotte was recently here in Tokyo, The Canadian was able to speak with him to find out what special memories he has of his stint in Japan, the message he has for his successor, and his reflections on his time as a CCCJ governor. 

We’re lucky and dedicated enough that the Canadian and Québec presence in Japan is very well perceived.

What have been some of your most memorable moments in Tokyo? 

There have been many. Although the pandemic will stand out, of course, out of my four years here, half were before the pandemic, including my first year here with IQ, and my first year as delegate general. I was lucky that we had a lot going on for those two years. One of the highlights was probably the mission by Minister of Tourism Caroline Proulx in June 2019, and Minister [Pierre] Fitzgibbon in December 2019. And we hosted the first Effet Québec event, a large-scale endeavour at Shibuya Hikarie that was attended by more than 100 people from Québec. That was great, because it was the last big event that Québec held abroad, and it was in Tokyo. 

And after this, our mandate changed substan­tially because of the new reality. Because Japan is far away and different from Québec, our role was very pivotal for many companies. Many artists doing business here, and people who were used to coming to Japan often — all of a sudden, they couldn’t travel at all. And as you know, personal contact in Japan is extremely important and at some point, Zoom calls aren’t enough. So, we had the opportunity with the team here to represent different companies and artists, and meet local partners in person when it was possible. And I think that changed the dynamic of how we work. 

With Québec’s Minister of Economy and Innovation Pierre Fitzgibbon and Mayor of Shibuya Ken Hasebe

Our team remained very solid, and that’s definitely one of the highlights of my posting here. Just how experienced and well-versed the team is here, and how they’ve been able to glide through the pandemic and adapt to this new reality, is not something ordinary in Japan — switching to full remote work.

What does the new role hold for you? 

It’s the same role, but the market is extremely different, and the geography is vast. We have the general delegation in LA, and also have an office for Silicon Valley in San Francisco that I will oversee. We cover all the way up to Washington, as well as Alaska and Hawaii. It’s 13 states. There’s a lot of moving around, and a lot of proximity to Québec in terms of values, such as priorities regarding the environment, economy, innovation and trade. And one thing we did develop over the last year is a new approach by the government, especially between Asia and the West Coast, which we call the Trans-Pacific Approach. Essentially, it’s to work with Asian corporations to have a strong presence on the West Coast of the US. 

Along with colleagues, I helped design the frame­work for this. We’ve hired someone in San Francisco, who will be focusing only on Asian corporations based there, and to essentially help create better, stronger and faster connections between Québec and Asia, but with this spring­board in the western US. That’s something we were able to build pre-pandemic, but it fast-tracked during the pandemic. So, having this proximity and connection in the US with Asian corporations has been great. And of course, I’ll take this to LA. 

What advice have you shared with your successor, Chénier La Salle, who began on June 6?

Chénier knows Japan very well — he has spent many years here, he’s very fond of the country and speaks Japanese. I think he’ll be a great fit. What I’ve told him is that, of course, you’ll want to bring in new ideas, but it’s important to learn from the team here and I think that’s one of the very important takeaways for me as well. It’s been like this for me in my previous posts, and I’m just discovering this once again in LA as well — the teams are so professional, they’ve been here for a long time. They’re passionate about what they do. And they do it because they believe in our mandate, and that we can change things and make things better for Québec.

How has your experience been as a CCCJ governor? 

It’s been fantastic. When I arrived in Tokyo, we joined the CCCJ through IQ. Wherever I’ve been in my other postings, such as in London and Paris, we always joined the Canadian and Québec business councils and chambers of commerce. I joined here as the regular thing that you would do as a diplomat, but I got a lot more involved. Just seeing everyone that was on the board, the companies that were members and the type of activities the chamber was doing, I understood how beneficial that would be to our presence here. Then I was elected to the board, and I’m just coming to the end of the third year of my term, which coincides with my departure. It’s been terrific that this really good group of very dedicated people are doing what they do voluntarily. 

I really see the good value of being together and networking, and pushing forward Canadian and Québec values, as well. We’ve had a variety of seminars — a lot of which were online over the past two years. They covered the First Nations and women in leadership featuring a minister from Québec, and were held just before the Olympics. We also developed connections with the Canadian embassy and the Japanese embassy in Canada. 

The chamber has really bolstered our presence here and helped Canada shine in Japan. The Japanese are very fond of Canada in general, but this brings a business perspective to bonds and relationships that are already very strong.

Brulotte with Mohan Patel, former director for Invest Québec in Japan

Would you like to share a farewell message with the CCCJ community? 

I think we’re lucky. We’re lucky and dedicated enough that the Canadian and Québec presence in Japan is very well perceived. I think we have this amazing sense of community. I represent one province, but throughout the last four years, we worked very closely with other provinces and the embassy. And it’s just been incredible to really feel this sense of community and purpose. 

It’s about how we can help each other and make sure that we all gain, and we all win. Because a win for one of us is a win for Canada, and vice versa. 

This is something that I really focused on in my previous postings as well, but it’s gone to another level here, with the closeness of the Canadian community in general and, of course, through the CCCJ. Québec has been extremely involved in the CCCJ on the board. And through these activities, I think we’ve benefitted a lot, and as a province we’re extremely grateful to the CCCJ.