Canada's second Baltic Express rolls in Vilnius

  • 2000-09-21
  • Darius James Ross
VILNIUS - The Baltic Express II, a mission of Canadian business people and government officials, recently spent one week touring major Baltic cities in the hope of increasing trade between Canada and the region. "This was the second time the Canadian government has organized this mission and I can say that it was very successful," said Allan Edwards of Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Edwards said that the first Baltic Express in 1998 was also successful but consisted largely of business people of Baltic heritage. "The people on this mission had never been to the Baltics before and it's the largest promotion of this kind that we've undertaken," he said.

About fifteen companies and government agencies participated in the mission.

The main areas of interest were processed fish, building supplies, construction technology and packaging. Ken Querel, a building products supplier, lives in the town of Vermilion Bay in Ontario, 1500 kilometers west of Toronto.

"The impression I got is that the Baltic countries are open for business. People here were friendly and professional and went out of their way to make time for us," he said.

Canada's Trade Commissioner to the region, Sean Boyd, said that with so much building renovation occurring in the region, he too is optimistic about trade possibilities.

Gemite Building Products is a Canadian construction company with a patented technology that is ideally suited to the Baltics and post-communist countries in general. It was started by Igor Nikolajev, an immigrant from the former Soviet republic of Czechoslovakia. "We can show people how to build a high quality structure far more cheaply than a standard frame building using local labor and materials," he said.

Nikolajev's structures are factory made using lightweight steel and thin layers of concrete. "We can put up a house in one week. Our buildings meet the construction code for hurricanes in Florida and earthquakes in California. Nikolajev felt the best reception he received was in Lithuania and hopes to set up a joint venture with a local partner in the next six to eight weeks. He already has partnerships in numerous East European countries.

Most of the participants were surprised at the level of development in the Baltics. Many thought that conditions would be similar to some of the less developed republics to the East. "I was surprised at how far these countries have come in such a short time," said Phil Leb-lanc of IMO Foods.