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Former Westside-Kelowna MLA adjusting to life in China
Ben Stewart, the British Columbia representative in Asia and Investment and Trade Commissioner, says he is quickly learning the importance of his new job.
Stewart was in West Kelowna Wednesday, speaking at a Greater Westside Board of Trade luncheon.
"I can see much more clearly why the premier felt that there was a gap," said Stewart.
He gave an example of a meeting he had last week with a vice chairman of one of the largest state-owned mining companies in China, which currently has three projects in progress in B.C.
"Our trade representatives don't normally get meetings at that level," said Stewart.
"Having somebody there when the premier or the minister can't be there—that's what my role is."
He explained B.C. is doing more business with China than any other Canadian province.
"It's difficult to overstate how important Asia is to B.C.'s economic future.
"In 2012, B.C.'s exports to China reached $5.9 billion—an increase of 18 per cent over 2011."
He encouraged the board of trade members interested in exporting and looking for investment to use the services of the British Columbia International Trade and Investment offices.
The former Westside-Kelowna MLA recently finalized his accommodation and will be based in Beijing.
Stewart said there are challenging aspects about the new job. For example, he's eager to learn the language so he doesn't have to rely on a translator.
"I've been in high gear on language training.
"When I go to these meetings, and go through an interpreter, I always know there are things lost in translation.
"If I can gain enough confidence to be able to help explain or understand what's being asked, I'll be able to do an even better job—so I'm working at that."