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China cancels meetings with B.C. trade mission in wake of Huawei executive’s arrest

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The detention of an executive of Chinese electronics giant Huawei in Canada is already having repercussions in Canadian-Chinese trade relations.

Bruce Ralston, British Columbia’s minister of jobs, trade and technology, on Sunday issued a statement saying the province has rescheduled the upcoming China meetings of B.C.’s current Forestry Asia Trade Mission.

He said the China leg of the mission, set to take place after talks in Japan wrap on Tuesday, has been suspended “due to the international judicial process underway” relating to a senior official at Huawei Technologies Co.

Ralston said B.C. “values its strong trade relationship with China, one based on mutual respect and close economic and cultural ties that have been established over many decades,” and his government will try to reschedule the talks “at the earliest convenient moment.” 

China summoned the U.S. ambassador to Beijing on Sunday to protest the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada at Washington’s behest and demanded Washington cancel an order for her arrest.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng “lodged solemn representations and strong protests” with Ambassador Terry Branstad against the detention of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.

Meng, who is reportedly suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran, was detained on Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver.

The Xinhua report quoted Le as calling Meng’s detention “extremely egregious” and demanded the U.S. vacate an order for her arrest. It quoted Le as calling for the U.S. to “immediately correct its wrong actions” and said it would take further steps based on Washington’s response.

Le also told Branstad the U.S. had made an “unreasonable demand” on Canada to detain Meng while she was en route to Mexico from Hong Kong.

“The actions of the U.S. seriously violated the lawful and legitimate rights of the Chinese citizen, and by their nature were extremely nasty,” Le told Branstad, comments similar to those he made to Canada’s ambassador the previous day.

In this courtroom sketch, Meng Wanzhou, right, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, sits beside a translator during a bail hearing at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Friday. Meng was arrested last Saturday while she was travelling through Vancouver airport, after an extradition request from the United States. (Jane Wolsak/Canadian Press)

The move followed the summoning of Canadian Ambassador John McCallum on Saturday over Meng’s detention and a similar protest warning of “grave consequences” if she is not released.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns over its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.

‘No point’ to political pressure 

Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said that Chinese pressure on the Canada’s government won’t work.

“Perhaps because the Chinese state controls its judicial system, Beijing sometimes has difficulty understanding or believing that courts can be independent in a rule-of-law country. There’s no point in pressuring the Canadian government. Judges will decide,” Paris tweeted in response to the comments from Beijing.

A Canadian prosecutor urged a Vancouver court to deny bail to Meng, whose case is shaking up U.S.-China relations and spooking global financial markets.

Meng, also the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed over dinner to a 90-day ceasefire in a trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce.

The U.S. alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also says that Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran.

The surprise arrest raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world’s two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.

Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing Friday that a warrant had been issued for Meng’s arrest in New York on Aug. 22. He said Meng was aware of the investigation and had been avoiding the United States for months, even though her teenage son goes to school in Boston.

Court urged to reject bail request

Gibb-Carsley alleged that Huawei had done business in Iran through a Hong Kong company called Skycom. Meng, he said, had misled U.S. banks into thinking that Huawei and Skycom were separate when, in fact, “Skycom was Huawei.” Meng has contended that Huawei sold Skycom in 2009.

In urging the court to reject Meng’s bail request, Gibb-Carsley said the Huawei executive had vast resources and a strong incentive to bolt: She’s facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years.

The hearing will resume Monday.

Huawei, in a brief statement emailed to The Associated Press, said that “we have every confidence that the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach the right conclusion.”

Canadian officials have declined to comment on Chinese threats of retaliation over the case, instead emphasizing the independence of Canada’s judiciary along with the importance of Ottawa’s relationship with Beijing.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said Canada “has assured China that due process is absolutely being followed in Canada, that consular access for China to Ms. Meng will absolutely be provided.”

“We are a rule-of-law country and we will be following our laws as we have thus far in this matter and as we will continue to do,” Freeland said Friday.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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