Canadian premiers lead trade mission to China

Updated: 2014-11-02 05:18

By Wang Ru in Beijing and Li Na in Toronto(China Daily North America)

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Canada is attending to some business in China.

Kathleen Wynne, premier of Ontario, along with other province officials and business representatives, embarked on a weeklong trip to China on Oct 25. Wynne's fellow travelers included Brad Duguid, minister of economic development, employment and infrastructure, and Michael Chan, minister of citizenship, immigration and international trade, and representatives of about 60 businesses and organizations.

The mission began in Nanjing, the capital of Ontario's sister province, Jiangsu. The delegation also traveled to Shanghai and then Beijing, where the premier joined her counterparts from Prince Edward Island and Quebec for the Council of the Federation mission, which concludes Nov 1. Business delegates from New Brunswick and Manitoba also participated in the mission.

"Trade missions are an integral part of our plan to make Ontario more competitive globally," Wynne said. "We are committed to helping Ontario businesses open doors and build connections in this key market."

China is Canada's second-largest trading partner. In 2013, Canada-to-China exports were valued at $20.5 billion and imports were valued at $52.7 billion.

"I am honored to be leading the third mission of Canada's premiers to China, as well as the largest business delegation in the history of the Council of the Federation," said Robert Ghiz, premier of Prince Edward Island. Ghiz, who is the federation's chairman, spoke Thursday during a media conference at the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries in Beijing.

Canada's premiers also visited China in 2008 and 2012.

"Working together to expand trade and further develop with China is an important priority of Canada's premiers," he said.

The trip to Beijing was expected to yield hundreds of millions of dollars in investment agreements with China.

"After talking with representatives from China's provincial governments, the trading agreements we signed outnumbered my expectation," said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

In Beijing, premiers and delegates attended meetings with Chinese government officials and participated in events being organized by the Canada-China Business Council.

The business groups showcased their products in a range of industries, including clean tech, science and technology. The clean-tech companies will aim to increase their presence in the Chinese market. The science and technology delegation comprises companies, universities, research institutions and research hospitals.

Fang Li, Chinese consul general in Toronto, said the trip was "of great significance". "Ontario is the most important for China among the provinces of Canada. I believe this visit will deepen and expand the friendly cooperation of mutual benefit."

Fang also indicated that the Ring of Fire, a large chromite deposit in the north of Thunder Bay, can be a point of cooperation between the two countries. "The demand for the minerals is high in China; we can work together if the necessary infrastructure such as a rail line can be built in this area," Fang said.

China is Ontario's second-largest trading partner but accounts for only 1.4 percent of the province's exports, compared with 80 percent to the United States. "The province needs to diversify its trade relationships to avoid [the decline due to rely on a single resource that] Ontario's manufacturing sector has suffered," said Duguid. "I hope the premier's visit can open more doors in China and ensure Ontario businesses access."

The 2014 China mission is part of Ontario's Going Global Trade Strategy to increase the province's international profile in support of the government's economic plan. The province is home to the largest Chinese community in Canada, with more than 710,000 Ontarians of Chinese origin. That creates a natural connection that fosters closer trade ties and makes Ontario an attractive destination for Chinese investment. Canadian firms need to break out of their comfort zones and pull off an economic shift to a new Asian market, Wynne said.

Two Chinese companies in Nanjing this week announced significant investments in Ontario that will translate into as many as 230 jobs.

"The strength of our longstanding friendship with China has allowed us to showcase the skills of our people and our ‘Made in Ontario' innovations," said Chan. "The key now is for government and industry to work together to follow up and turn the goodwill between our economies into good jobs for Ontarians."

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