Despite friction, agriculture trade growth with China on target

Like other relationships, export markets take time, energy, and diplomacy to develop and maintain. Agriculture trade can be impacted by politics that have very little to do with farming and food, and big-picture friction in the short-term could threaten years of hard work.

Just as good news rolls in on reduced tariffs for Canadian agriculture goods through the CPTPP, souring diplomatic relationships with China could impact Canada’s ambitious target of doubled ag trade with the country by 2025.

Despite the challenges, though, Brian Innes, chair of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance and vice president, public affairs for the Canola Council of Canada, says that the long-term outlook is positive. Innes recently joined RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney in Saskatoon to talk trade — on a very large scale — and also the importance of field-level decisions on the success of international trade relationships.

There’s been some very positive news this month for canola and other export commodities, as CPTPP comes into force, including tariff reductions into Vietnam. Trade deals like the CPTPP are six or seven years in the making, Innes says. Now that they are being ratified and implemented they are helping to meet that 2025 goal.

Will we see current trade and diplomatic disagreements derail agriculture trade to China?

“There’s a lot of uncertainty with the Canadian relationship with China, but…we’re looking long term. If we look out seven years from now, we hope this will be a blip that we’ll have forgotten about by then,” Innes says.

There is good news, in that China seems to have an appetite for doing business with Canada’s agriculture industry, with the recent approval of  two canola traits and steady demand. Innes says the industry remains focused on not just securing these markets, but maintaining these strong relationships with programs such as Keep it Clean — where farmers can get first-hand information on blackleg in canola, de-registered varieties, pre-harvest intervals and more.

Innes says programs like these are important to link the farm-level to the end-use or export market, so farmers recognize their role and value in maintaining these relationships.

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