LUC DUPONT: CANADA'S TIES WITH BULGARIA CAN ONLY GO UPWARD
Mr. Luc Dupont met Milena Hristova, Editor of novinite.com and The News.
Q: What do you think the Bulgarian government should do so as to give priority to trading with Canada?
A: The big challenge for Bulgaria is to further develop its investor base. The geographical location makes Bulgaria an interesting country, from which you can cover further markets, such as Turkey, Romania, a lot of the Black Sea region and Western Europe. The first step Bulgaria should take is to position itself as market for investment.
The second step, from a Canadian perspective, is to give a chance to the Canadians and particularly the Canadian private sector to better understand the Bulgarian reality, the quality of its people and the reforms that are currently underway. Put all these elements together and I am sure Canadian companies will come to realize they should pay a closer look to Bulgaria. The financial institution that I represent, Export Development Canada, is prepared to support companies that are actively looking at business in Bulgaria through trade financing, capital goods and investments. We are also prepared to work with other financial institutions, commercial banks or other multilateral agencies.
The purpose of the seminar " Canada- an emerging trading partner for Bulgaria" was to send a signal to the Bulgarian business community and the Bulgarian government that Canada is ready to become a credible trading partner for Bulgaria. My personal conviction is that with the changes that have been taking place in Central and Eastern Europe, the timing to become more involved in Bulgaria is good right now.
Q: What difficulties Canadian investors face on the Bulgarian market?
A: The major obstacle is that Canadians do not understand Bulgarians.
Q: Currently Canadian direct investment is rather modest, standing at some USD 800,000. Can you forecast what the maximum figure would be in a few years?
A: Considering the potential I would say in a few years the figure could go up to USD 70 M - USD 100 M fairly easily.
Q: Comparing the mentality of Bulgarian and Canadian businessmen, which are the main differences?
A: The Canadian businessman is strongly affected by the geographical proximity of the United States. A lot of Canadians do not see the American market as a foreign market but an extension of their domestic market. In Bulgaria geography has always been an obstacle between Canada and Bulgaria and we didn't have any spontaneous relationships. The longest part of a journey is the first step. It reflects commitment, perspective, vision and I strongly believe that this has already been done.
Q: Is there anything specific about Bulgaria, which distinguishes it as a trading partner from other countries, such as neighboring Turkey?
A: The communalities established between Bulgaria and Turkey because of the Ottoman link is a common dimension. Whereas 95% of the Turkey's territory is Asian, and has been influenced more directly by the Central Asian cultural way of doing things. Bulgaria is much more integrated with the European mind-set. Bulgaria is smaller than Turkey and the governance structure is mainly centralized in the capital Sofia. The third difference is that Bulgaria is a closely knitted society and anonymity is very difficult to achieve. Although the same thing can be found in Canada, there is a multiplicity of regional dynamics there.
Q: At the forum you mentioned that Bulgaria should raise its profile in Canada.
A: Bulgaria has already raised its profile in the institution I represent. Last year in Canada I organized two events on Bulgaria. We were able to allow many Canadians to have an up to date knowledge of Bulgaria. As a result of those initiatives many people are seriously considering Bulgaria, and secondly some of them are even developing proposals. We are very encouraged by these developments. Judging by the very low level of trade and economic ties between Canada and Bulgaria they can only go upward.
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