Austria and Canada: An expanding partnership

| June 26, 2011 | 0 Comments
Austria leads the world in the number of energy-efficient buildings, such as this alpine passive house (above). Below, Fronius’ Sattledt headquarters; the solar panel roof supplies 90 percent of the facility’s energy needs.

Austria leads the world in the number of energy-efficient buildings, such as this alpine passive house (above). Below, Fronius’ Sattledt headquarters; the solar panel roof supplies 90 percent of the facility’s energy needs.

Many Canadians think of Austria as a coveted tourist destination and a country of rich cultural heritage. At the same time, Austria is a highly industrialized country with ever-growing importance in the field of high-tech products. Like Canada, Austria’s economy is heavily oriented towards world markets and is export-driven. Austria today is a hub for international companies to do business in the European Union and beyond.
Canada is Austria’s fifth-largest overseas market. The volume of bilateral trade reaches close to $1 billion, with a slight trade surplus currently in favour of Austria. After recent setbacks, the 2010 figures again point to major gains. The growth rates for Austrian exports to and imports from Canada in 2010 lie well above the 20 percent mark.
Austria’s exports to Canada cover a broad spectrum of industries. They range from cars and car parts, products of the aviation industry, sophisticated precision instruments, environmental technology, air control and air safety to consumer products like Swarovski Crystals and energy drinks such as Red Bull. (The Austrian company Frequentis, incidentally, has its Canadian headquarters in Ottawa.)
Canadian exports to Austria comprise airplanes, cars and car parts, aluminum, chemical products and electronic appliances, as well as agricultural products, such as, to give one example, lentils from Saskatchewan.
Environmental and energy technology is one of Austria’s priorities. The world market for green technology with a volume of US$1.9 trillion is already larger than the market for mechanical engineering.
In Austria’s energy mix, the share of renewable energies is currently at 23.4 percent.
Renewable energy is expected to be one of the economic engines of the future. More than 400 Austrian companies are active in the field of environmental technologies and some of them have already successfully found their place in the Canadian market. Fronius of Upper Austria has grown to Europe’s market leader for solar electronics and is running a subsidiary in Mississauga, Ont. Binder GmbH, a Styrian manufacturer of biomass boilers that takes care of the Canadian operations out of Abbotsford, B.C., has successfully installed its high-end boilers in Yellowknife. And the Upper Austrian company, Scheuch, based in London, Ont., provides the necessary filter devices to keep Canada’s air clean.
Austria now also leads the world in the number of energy-efficient buildings per capita. In order to promote Austrian passive house technology, the country will participate at this year’s Greenbuild EXPO in Toronto in October, with an Austrian Pavilion showcasing its companies and highlighting its No. 1 position in passive house technology and related products.
We are also focusing on the important sector of telecommunications and software.
The Austrian ICT-sector is responsible for 25 percent of all economic growth and 30 percent to 40 percent of GDP growth. It employs more than 15,000 people.
One example is Frequentis, which has been a successful global player for years and is providing telecommunications technology, out of its Ottawa subsidiary, to the Canadian security forces.
The Austrian commercial section is currently working on a study that aims at assessing the status quo of the Canadian ICT-market and at identifying the vast opportunities this sector has to offer. The study will be presented in October in major Austrian cities to more than 100 companies and industry experts.
It speaks to the sophistication of Austrian technology that some of the most important infrastructure projects of recent years in Canada have been undertaken — or are being undertaken — by Austrian companies in co-operation with Canadian partners. A famous example is the Peak-to-Peak Gondola in Whistler, B.C., the work of the Austrian company Doppelmayr. Another is the 10-kilometre-wide-diameter tunnel underneath the City of Niagara Falls, which is designed to transport river water to the power station and is a project of the Austrian construction company STRABAG.
Other big names in the bilateral economic relationship are Magna, the biggest car parts producer in the world, founded by Austrian immigrant Frank Stronach. Magna maintains its European headquarters near Vienna. Bombardier produces its Skidoo engines in Vienna, as well as its tram cars.
The Austrian Embassy’s optimistic outlook for our bilateral economic ties finds additional support in the economic and trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, which is supposed to be finalized early next year. It will be ambitious, well-balanced and in the interest of both countries. It will prove to the world that the principle of free trade is alive and well.

Werner Brandstetter is Austria’s ambassador to Canada. Reach him at ottawa-ob@bmeia.gv.at or contact the Austrian Commercial Section in Toronto at 416-967-3348.

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