Fast promotes China as Canadian IT market as country's hacker hotbed revealed

OTTAWA – The federal trade minister is promoting China as a key market for Canadian technology as that country is being outed as a hacker hotbed.

Ed Fast says he’s headed to China and Japan in April to promote Canadian information communications technology.

In China, Fast will visit three cities, including Shanghai, the home of a military unit linked this week to cyber-espionage activities targeting companies around the globe.

Fast says he’s going to Shanghai in particular because it’s an important area for the development of IT for business and mobile applications.

He’ll also visit Hangzhou and Hong Kong as well as Japan to focus on medical imaging technology, along with business leaders from those industries.

Fast’s trade mission is his first to China since his visit with the prime minister last year.

A foreign investment and promotion agreement between Canada and China that was the centrepiece of Harper’s 2012 trip has yet to be ratified.

Still, statistics show that in 2012, China surpassed the United Kingdom to become the second-largest destination for Canada’s exports.

The Canadian information communication sector saw revenues of about $162 billion in 2011 and Chinese demand for related products is booming.

“Our government is committed to helping Canadian companies … expand and succeed in China and Japan and other fast-growing markets in the Asia-Pacific region,” Fast said in a statement.

The Canadian government has been less enthusiastic about helping Chinese IT firms seeking to be more active in Canada.

Officials raised red flags last year about the telecom firm Huawei being able to bid on government-related communications contracts.

The concern was giving a company with links to the Chinese government a portal into the Canadian government.

The issue of national security butting up against trade promotion also reared its head in the recent bid by a Chinese state-owned firm for a Calgary based oil company.

While the Harper government eventually approved CNOOC’s bid for Nexen, it imposed new rules on foreign ownership of natural resource companies.

The Chinese government has denied being active in cyber-espionage.

On Monday, Virginia-based firm Mandiant released a torrent of details tying a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai to attacks targeting more than 140 companies around the world, including two with Canadian connections.

The report also revealed that three of the servers implicated in the attacks were located in Canada.

On Wednesday, China’s Defence Ministry called the report deeply flawed.

– with files from Associated Press