Saanich entrepreneur Alistair Vigier predicts Canada will benefit from rising tensions between the United States and China by attracting investment. Black Press File.

Saanich entrepreneur predicts Canada will cash in on U.S. trade dispute with China

A Saanich entrepreneur familiar with China says current trade tensions between the United States and China could benefit Canada, notwithstanding measures designed to curb foreign investment.

“The [United States] is becoming less attractive for Chinese people because of the potential trade war and issues like that,” said Alistair Vigier, chief executive officer of ClearWay Law, in an interview describing his second journey to China after a trip in late 2017.

Alistair Vigier, who also won a B.C. Business Magazine 30 Under 30 Award in April 2017 and currently serves as international consultant for Jusu Body, made these comments after the provincial government had extended the foreign buyers’ tax to the Greater Victoria area and curbed the purchases of second homes.

These measures barely resonate in China, where residents consider Canada on par with the United Kingdom and Australia, when it comes to investing. The reputation of the United States has suffered against the backdrop of simmering tensions.

“So I know Chinese people are concerned about moving their money into the U.S. in case there is retaliation,” he said. “I see that Canada will become more and more popular for Chinese people regardless of the [foreign-buyers] tax. Obviously, it is a large amount of extra money to pay as a foreigner here. But if you have a lot of money, and you are just trying to get it out of China for safe-keeping, Canada is still the safest place.”

Vigier’s business trip took him among to Beijing and Shanghai among other spots.

While Vigier had a better idea of what to expect, many aspects surprised him.

One of those was alcohol. Lunch often involves multiple drinks, as participants cheer frequently. Certain norms also guide this custom. Junior professionals, for example, must tap the lower end of the glasses that belong to senior professionals.

“It sounds trivial to us, but to them, they take it very seriously,” he said. Even the amount matters, as Vigier found out, when a communist party official asked him to refill his glass before cheering. “He actually wouldn’t let me tap his glass until my alcohol was at a certain level. It was too low for some reason.”

Vigier’s visit to China happened against the backdrop of the 13th National People’s Congress of China that elevated the status and power of Chinese president Xi Jinping, whose government has stepped up control, something Vigier has noticed.

“I think Chinese people agree with me about the statement that things are a lot more strict in China,” he said.

Accepting China’s authoritarian leadership is part and parcel of the bargaining when it comes to doing business.

“If you want to go and do business in any developing country, if we are talking about Africa, the Middle East, if we are talking about China, Asia, there is going to be a list of things that offend us as Canadians,” he said. “You have to make that decision if you are comfortable with that.”

This said, Vigier hopes and expects China will move towards Canadian standards of social and political developments, and he has actually considered moving to China, were it not for the air pollution

“That’s a big no for me,” he said.

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