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Canadian show highlights packaging industry up north

More than 2,000 attendees visited Montreal's Palais des Congres April 23-25 to view the latest in packaging equipment and materials at Packaging-Forum-D'Emballage. Sponsored by the Packaging Assn. of Canada (PAC), the show is in its fourth year, alternating with PAC's much larger national PAC-EX show in Toronto.

More than 180 companies exhibited. Several US firms were featured, including Matthews International Corp., Pittsburgh, PA; Electronic Liquid Fillers, LaPorte, IN; Intralox Inc., Harahen, LA; Emerson Electronics Motion Controls, Chanhassen, MN; and Balemaster, Crown Point, IN. Also on hand were a number of Canadian distributors and suppliers of US-made equipment, including Canadian Paper & Packaging Co. Ltd., Saint Laurent, Que., and Celplast Packaging Systems Ltd., Saint Laurent, Que.

Klockner Pentaplast of Canada, Oshawa, Ont., was one of the few non-Quebec Canadian firms exhibiting. Klaus Gerwe, VP, Canadian operations, for Klockner, told me that the show was "a very meaningful regional show whose potential is far greater than its physical size." He stressed the large market in Quebec, where his firm sells over 50% of its products. In addition, he noted that the Quebec market is rapidly increasing because of export volume to the US. For this reason, he believes that Packaging-Forum-D'Emballage should direct its advertising not only to the Canadian domestic market but also to the entire northeastern US. (I agree.)

Ye Ming (Canada) Ltd, Abbertsford, B.C., has distributed its line of laminated printed flexible materials in North America for over ten years. Produced in two plants located in Singapore and Southeast China, Ye Ming's products are used in a wide range of food and drug applications. Ye Ming reports that the "response to their exhibits were excellent in spite of the rather tight space."

Alan M. Robinson, president/CEO of PAC, writes in the show guide, "As the end of the 20th century approaches, Canadian packagers are pondering whether the glass is half full or half empty. On a positive note, the industry's export position, particularly to the US, has grown by 40% in recent years. Now, annual packaging exports (including filled and unfilled packaging, machinery, and various consulting services) are worth $2.5 billion. Opportunities for strong exports have never been better.

"Canadian packaging, however, faces a continued challenge from an expanding patchwork of provincial environmental regulations. This could slow many of the gains made by PAC on behalf of the industry toward safeguarding international competitiveness. Similar regulations in several US jurisdictions also pose potential artificial impediments to our exports.

"Despite [this], Canadian companies are becoming leaders in world-class, environmentally sound packaging solutions. A strong Canadian voice is needed to ensure that industry's substantial investment in setting these parameters for environmental packaging is not compromised by a lessening of standards in other countries."

Robinson adds, "Export opportunities for the Canadian packaging industry continue to expand through NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

"Thanks to these agreements, our industry is becoming an international competitor in every sense. While PAC is intensifying its efforts to find new marketplaces for Canadian packaging-related products and services, we have also become extremely vigilant against the dumping of various packaging materials from off-shore sources and the creation of artificial trade barriers in these markets.

"We have collaborated on the resolution of several issues negatively impacting our members. We were instrumental in terminating an advance disposal fee on Canada's packaging in Florida and have helped defeat recycled content levies and material bans in several US states.

"PAC has worked with such organizations as the Coalition of Northeastern Governors [CONEG], the US Dept. of Commerce, and Canada's federal External Affairs and Industry Depts. to counter potentially debilitating legislation," says Robinson.

"There's a lot at stake. And it won't get easier. Every time a government changes hands anywhere in North America, there are new personalities, priorities, and attitudes to be addressed."

Stanley Sacharow has been in the flexible packaging industry for almost 35 years. His company, The Packaging Group, is an organizer of targeted conferences and a consultant to the international packaging/converting industry.

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