Canada commits to double agriculture trade to China by 2025

Canola field Humboldt

The federal government has made it very clear that it expects Canadian agriculture to grow, scale-up, and increase production — for both domestic and international markets. China is a key destination for several Canadian commodities, and a trade mission this week is yielding some very positive results.

Last week, Canada sent four high-level ministers to China in order to build the trade relationship, and today, the government announced that it aims to double agriculture exports to the global super power by 2025. Currently, Canada exports $7 billion in agricultural goods to China.

Announced Monday, this doubling of exports will require significant coordination across not just the agriculture industry, but between the two countries as well, says Brian Innes, vice president of public affairs for the Canola Council of Canada and president of Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA).

Innes joined Shaun Haney from Beijing to discuss the success of these high level trade discussions between Canada’s ministries of trade, finance, and agriculture and China’s government.

There are certainly some positive spin-offs for Canada to tense trade relations between the U.S. and China, Innes says, but there still is significant work required to make this lofty goal of double exports happen.

To wit, canola is one commodity that’s faced significant non-tariff trade barriers when shipping to China, through a mis-match of the biotech trait approval process. There are three traits, specifically, that have been approved here in Canada but have not been approved in China, stalling the commercial release of these traits here at home.

Innes says the industry is optimistic that this week’s positive meetings and goal setting is a step towards overcoming this trade hurdle, but China did not commit to timeline for approval at this time.

While all of this is certainly good news, the government is downplaying “trade deal” language. In an article in the Globe and Mail, Finance Minster Bill Morneau downplayed the creation of a trade deal and encouraged Canadians “not to think about it as deals, but as progress. And so we’re thinking about progress in various sectors.”

There has been plenty of attention and criticism for the USMCA text which includes Canada having to notify the U.S. and Mexico of trade deals with “non-market” economies, of which China is one, which may be why Morneau is downplaying Monday’s proceedings.

Listen below to Brian Innes and Shaun Haney discuss the trade mission to China, the intricacies of doubling agriculture exports by 2025, and more:

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