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Digital conference to highlight global infrastructure opportunities

Opportunities in infrastructure projects around the world will be highlighted at an upcoming conference that will connect Canadian companies that have public‑private partnership (P3) expertise with key decision makers and contracting authorities from promising global markets.

Torotno under construction with cranes

P3 2020, the 28th annual conference of the Canadian Council for Public‑Private Partnerships (CCPPP), will be virtual this year as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic, which is also raising interest in the P3 model. The online event from November 17 to 19 will offer the ability to connect with members of Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) and include a whole day focused on international programming.

The conference is recognized as one of the premier events on P3s in the world, bringing together participants from the public and private sectors to share ideas and experiences, learn about new projects and talk about trends in the P3 model. With the digital format this year, attendees can take part in live Q&As with speakers, and the sessions will be available to them on-demand for 90 days following the event.

Participants can visit the TCS International Café to discuss global P3 opportunities with trade commissioners, who will set up business‑to‑business meetings and provide introductions to decision makers and contracting authorities in global markets, both during and after the conference.

Mark Romoff, president and CEO of the CCPPP, expects as many as 1,500 people to participate in the conference, about 50% higher than in the past, “with much broader engagement from around the world.” Attendees have previously come from about 25 countries, but that could rise to 40 countries, he says. “The international component is significant for us this year.”

The COVID‑19 pandemic is a big reason for enhanced global interest in the P3 model, Romoff explains. “There’s a recognition that investing in infrastructure is a core element of every jurisdiction’s recovery plan.”

A global leader in P3 infrastructure development

This is the ninth year that the conference includes the TCS International Café, “and it keeps getting better and better,” he comments. “The number of countries investing in infrastructure and those using P3 models continues to grow. And there’s value in having trade commissioners available to meet with companies to hear about opportunities.”

On the third day of the event, participants can learn about international opportunities from ambassadors and trade commissioners, who will hold “market snapshot” sessions covering places such as the U.S., UK, Latin America, Caribbean, South‑East Asia and the Middle East. Those interested in specific upcoming P3 projects can attend “market soundings” by project authorities looking for feedback and to garner interest in them.

“We want to make Canadian P3 companies more aware of the opportunities that exist for them abroad,” says Guillaume Cournoyer, head of the TCS infrastructure sector team. “Participants at the conference will have the chance to learn about trends and priorities across a number of markets and to connect with trade commissioners and other local stakeholders who are directly involved in infrastructure development.”

He notes that the P3 model is especially relevant today as governments look to leverage private capital to build the critical infrastructure needed to spark economic recovery and address infrastructure gaps.

The digital format of this year’s P3 conference offers flexibility to attendees and expands the range of opportunities it will focus on, he says. With time differences, participants are able to take in sessions after the fact.

Chantel Blanchette, a trade commissioner in Ottawa who covers the infrastructure sector, says that in the International Café, delegates can direct‑message trade commissioners and set up meetings at mutually agreeable times. “It’s an opportunity to get connected to the right people,” she says.

Each trade commissioner will work closely with participating foreign delegations, Blanchette notes. Representatives from Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) will be available to discuss how they can help businesses pursue international P3 opportunities as well.

Also of interest to international participants, on the third day there will be a session with heads of provincial P3 agencies across Canada. This will provide an opportunity to learn about the Canadian experience and capabilities in delivering P3 projects.

Participants in past CCPPP annual conferences have noted that the International Café allowed them to obtain first‑hand knowledge of opportunities in different countries, Blanchette says. For example, the 2019 conference has helped Canadian companies make inroads in markets such as the U.S., Jamaica, Ethiopia and Thailand.

Cournoyer points out that Canadian expertise is particularly sought after both in P3 infrastructure delivery as well as in areas such as helping governments structure their P3 programs. He says that “establishing relationships is really core to this business,” which is challenging due to current travel restrictions.

“We want to pave the road for Canadians to be ready to jump on opportunities when travel restrictions ease,” Cournoyer adds. “Trade commissioners at the conference will be ready to connect Canadian firms with the right people now, so that they can hit the ground running when they’re ready to resume normal operations.”

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