Home monitoring company says Canada-Korea free trade will raise Canadian profile in Asia
Charles Black, CEO of Ottawa-based home monitoring company iWatchLife, doesn’t think the new Canada-South Korea free trade agreement will have a measurable effect on his company right away, even though they do business in South Korea. It will, however, have a positive effect overall for Canadian business in the region.
Says Mr. Black, “Because we have a partnership with Samsung and do not have a trading relationship that may be affected by tariffs, the new deal does not have an immediate impact on our business. That being said, I believe that any time the profile of Canadian business can be raised abroad in target markets like South Korea, it is a good thing for Canadian business.”
The agreement, announced on Tuesday by the Harper government, is being heralded as “historic” because it is Canada’s first free trade deal with an Asian country.
South Korea, a nation of 50 million people, is Canada’s third-largest merchandise trading partner in Asia, after China and Japan, and seventh-largest overall.
When fully phased in, the deal will eliminate nearly all of the tariffs between Canada and South Korea. Korea has agreed to cut 81.9 percent of duties the very first day, and Canada will do away with 76.4 percent of its levies on Korean goods and services. The Canadian government projects the deal will increase exports to Korea by 32 percent and boost Canada’s economy by $1.7 billion, creating jobs for thousands of Canadians.
Canada’s agriculture sector stands to gain the most from the deal, because it means relief from high South Korean penalties on Canadian beef, pork, seafood, and forest products, among others.
The auto industry is less than impressed. Ford Canada issued a statement saying the new agreement will not help them, and that South Korea will remain “one of the most closed automotive markets in the world.”
Although the Canadian government says the agreement will benefit the communications and information technology sector, it will not really have an impact on companies like iWatchLife, who are not currently affected by tariffs.
The company provides cloud-based management of home-monitoring video, and is partnered with South Korea’s Samsung Techwin, who provides the cameras. A do-it-yourself service, iWatchLife prides itself on its affordability, ease of use, and cutting-edge technology, which means greater convenience for its customers. Advanced algorithms let users draw specific “zones” of interest within their camera’s field of view; activity recognition then happens only within those custom zones, triggering fewer false alerts. The alert consists of an email with a photo of the activity that triggered it; users can then instantly access a recording of the event, or tune in to the live feed remotely from their smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
“Other companies are experimenting with similar algorithms,” says Tom Leger, VP of Business Development for iWatchLife, “but we are miles ahead in terms of sophistication. We have 20 patents protecting our technology. That will ultimately have a greater direct effect on our business than the free trade agreement.”
South Korea has the fourth-largest economy in Asia, after China, Japan, and India, so it is a desirable market in itself, but Prime Minister Harper hopes this agreement will pave the way for further Asian free trade deals. “South Korea is not only a major economic player in its own right and a key market for Canada; it also serves as a gateway for Canadian businesses and workers into the dynamic Asia-Pacific region as a whole.”
The government points out that the deal will also “level the playing field for Canadian companies competing with Korea’s other trading partners, including the United States and the European Union, who already have free trade agreements with Korea.”
Whether or not the deal directly impacts all sectors of Canadian business, it can only have a positive effect. “Any agreements such as this Free Trade deal can only be a good thing moving forward if they help to simplify and encourage trans-Pacific relationships,” says Mr. Black. “I am hoping the government signs additional free trade deals with other Asian economies to assist all Canadian companies to reach their markets.”