KOBE — Government and business officials from the Kansai region and western Canada agreed Oct. 17 to strengthen private-sector-driven cooperation to revitalize and diversify their economies.Canadian participants at the Kansai-Canada West Business Forum said western Canada welcomes investment by Kansai-based companies, not only in the traditional mining and forestry sectors. but also in such higher-value-added sectors as pharmaceuticals and multimedia technology.The forum, hosted this year by seven Kansai-based chambers of commerce and the Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren), was started last year in British Columbia to deepen ties between the two regions. It was largely prompted by the launch of direct flights between Kansai International Airport and Vancouver.Premiers and vice premiers of western Canadian provinces pushed the region’s geographical advantage as a distribution hub for North America, as well as its relatively low tax rates and public utility charges, in the hope of attracting Japanese companies, especially small and medium-size firms.Raymond Chan, Canada’s secretary of state for Asia-Pacific affairs, said Canada is a highly decentralized country, which means provincial governments have great authority in deciding their own tax incentives and energy policies. Dwain Lingenfelter, deputy premier of Saskatchewan, said the province’s energy industries, including telecom and electricity firms, plan to start overseas investment in such areas as South America and are looking to Japanese firms as potential business partners.

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