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Catalan companies in Quebec, an entry way into the American market and strategic partnerships

Businesses from Catalonia and Quebec are starting to form partnerships in the fields of aerospace, consulting, and biotechnology. ?Quebec is an opportunity for Catalan companies to enter into the American market?, said Françoise Bertrand.

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27 July 2010 01:04 AM

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Ariadna Matamoros / CNA
Montreal (CNA).- Catalonia and Quebec are two nations that share cultural, linguistic and economic values. From a business point of view, “Catalonia is extremely interesting because all of the Mediterranean can be reached from the region”, said the president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec, Françoise Bertrand. She told CNA that “Quebec is an opportunity for Catalan companies to enter into the American market”. Two Catalan companies that study the Quebec market are Starlab and Bioiberica, both in the biomedical sector. They have travelled to Montreal and have been surprised by the “size and power” of the leading sectors of the country, such as the aerospace and the biomedical sectors.
In 2009, 1,230 Catalan companies exported to Canada but only 454 have done this regularly. On the other hand, out of the 3,500 foreign businesses that have opened up in Catalonia, 30 of them are Canadian. Catalonia is the main destination for Canadian investors in the Spanish state, accumulating 60% of the total investments in sectors like aerospace, consulting, and biotechnology.

At present, Catalonia and Quebec have over 25 universities, some 20 technological parks, around 600 centres of research and more than 800 biotechnological, pharmaceutical and medical technologies businesses.

According to Bertrand, who represents over 40,000 businesses, Catalonia and Quebec are both leaders in the biopharmaceutical and biotechnological industries and collaboration between the two should “be stressed.” A way of reinforcing economical bonds between the two nations would be through the green energy sector, one in which Quebec is fully developing. “Here we are serious about green technologies. We have advanced in hydroelectricity, wind energy, and will have an electric car as well as many businesses involved with energy efficiency”, explained Bertrand. “It’s a sector in which we could collaborate with Catalonia”, she added.

10 companies in Canada, 8 of which are in Quebec, have already implemented many of these opportunities and many others are exploring the market in search of partnerships or commercial expansion. This is the case of Bioiberica, a Catalan pharmaceutical company from Palafolls (Maresme) specialised in joint health and osteoarthritis, who visited Quebec two weeks ago to strengthen their already existing bonds with the territory.

“We have come to Canada in search of possibilities of expansion and projects”, assured the company’s medical director, Josep Vergés. Vergés stressed the importance of internationalisation of the companies to promote growth. According to Vergés, Catalonia and Quebec have “cultural bonds that they have to take advantage of”, which is the reason why the company has already been collaborating with centres of research in Quebec.

Another company that is trying to expand its market to Quebec is Starlab, a Barcelona-based company specialised in the development of technology tied to the human brain. The company that develops biomedical applications is studying “joint ventures” with Quebec in the field of the research, though they have also talked to small companies that could help in the commercialisation of their products.

According to the Starlab’s director, Giulio Ruffini, both the size of the companies in Quebec and the “power” of the aerospace and biomedical sectors have surprised them. Ruffini highlighted that Catalonia “can contribute with important things from the technological point of view”. “We are very good at getting things done and have Quebec in a competitive position”, said the company’s director of business development, Ana Maiques.

Predictability and stability

With the motto “greater freedom for entrepreneurs”, Bertrand did not want to enter into the debate about Quebec’s autonomy. She affirmed that in the federation of Chambers of Commerce, there are as many “pro independence people as federalists”. According to Bertrand, “companies need predictability and stability” to invest in a territory. In this sense, voices pushing for a third independence referendum could create “turbulences” in the business sector.

“Companies are not necessarily against it [the possibility of having a third referendum]; this depends on their philosophy and beliefs, but it is true that it is always a little bit worrying when we wander how much [the current status quo] will last, what effect this will have on the exportations and on the foreign investment”, Bertrand has pointed out.

In addition, the President of the Federation has also explained the importance of the French language in the business sector. “In Quebec, we want our language to not only be in our homes and culture but also in making business”, she has stressed. There is a law regarding this issue, guaranteeing some rights and obligations. For instance, the documentation and presentation of the company to the clients have to be in French and the employees have the right to speak in French. Employers also have a responsibility to offer clients the context to be able to do so.

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  • Françoise Bertrand during the interview

  • Françoise Bertrand during the interview