While travels plans were disrupted by an unusual late winter storm on the coast, Ambassador Rava was able to address the Estonian community during its Independence Day celebration on February 26th by Zoom from the hallways of the Ottawa airport, and in-person the next day, meeting with key members of the Estonian Society Executive.
During the Ambassador’s visit to Vancouver, he also travelled to our capital, Victoria, to meet with key government ministries. He met with Minister of Jobs, Economic Development, and Innovation Brenda Bailey, and Minister of State for Trade Jagrup Brar to discuss mutual trade issues, and specifically digital leadership. Estonia is well known to the BC government as a leader in this field and Ministers were keen to know more about Estonia’s solutions for government services.
He also met with the Minister of Forestry Bruce Ralston and agreed that BC and Estonia have much in common with significant proportions of their land mass covered by forests (2/3 in BC, 1/2 in Estonia). Much can be learned from each country in terms of getting the highest value from this valuable resource.
Ambassador Rava also updated the government on Nortal’s entry to the Canadian market and what an asset Nortal can be in advancing the government and its agencies' digital transformation goals, in addition to the employment opportunities it is creating.
Following the meetings with the provincial government, Ambassador Rava had the experience of travelling by BC Ferries back to Vancouver (due to another storm cancelling air travel). BC Ferries has looked at Estonia’s Tallink for future direction and port automation, so it was fortuitous that the ambassador was able to experience first hand the BC service.
The next day was spent with local companies interested in trade and investment in Estonia or the broader European Union. The World Trade Centre division of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade hosted a roundtable discussion with 10 local businesses, including Nortal. The meeting was to be in-person but as the storm brought the streets to almost a standstill, we had to convert to a virtual setting.
Ambassador Rava provided a comprehensive overview of Estonia’s economy and advantages to doing business in Estonia. There was great interest in Estonia’s E-Residency program where companies can register in less than three hours, gain access to a multitude of financial and legal services, and be tax free if net profits are invested or retained in the company.
The companies ranged from a lumber exporter to a dairy protein exporter who has lost the Estonian market due to its distributor being located in Belarus. Ambassador Rava has followed up with some of the companies with additional information and assistance in locating local partners or distributors, benefiting both Canadian and Estonian enterprises.
All in all, it was a very fruitful trip (despite the challenges caused by Mother Nature!), providing insight into the workings of the Estonian Embassy and its ambassador.