'Ready to go': Ag minister says trip to China awaiting visas; continues to push science-based solution


In her first trip to Saskatchewan, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau spent the day in Saskatoon discussing the issue of China blocking Canadian canola shipments with producers and industry stakeholders. Trade Diversification Minister, Jim Carr was also present during the two part meeting held late last week.

Bibeau says they’re “ready to go” when it comes to sending a delegation to China. However, she adds they’re waiting on an invitation from China, as well as visa confirmation.

“We are having the conversation right now between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and our counterparts and we have offered to send a delegation over there,” Bibeau says. “Obviously we have to wait for an invitation from China to (fly) a delegation over there, but we are ready to go very fast.”

Although Bibeau didn’t clarify who all would be on the trip to China, Saskatchewan MLA Jeremy Harrison did say the province  has offered to be part of the delegation. In an earlier interview, MP John Barlow says he’d like to see the government take a “Team Canada” approach on the expedition to China.

In the meantime, Minister Carr did point out that, “all of our embassy officials” located in Beijing are working “aggressively on the scientific front” because the Liberal government is firm with it’s belief that the canola that was sent was the highest quality.

When it comes to the overall issue and how Canada will be able to restore its trade relations with China, Bibeau remains to push the stance of a “science based solution.” She added the CFIA has come back with its initial results from testing the canola shipments from Richardson International and Viterra and confirms no pests were found.

Political or technical?

Last Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Geng Shuang was quoted, “As for China-Canada relations, we hope that the Canadian side could work with us to promote the sound and steady development of bilateral relations. The Canadian side should take some concrete measures to correct its previous mistakes.”

When asked whether she thought it was still a technical issue, Bibeau remained firm on her stance that it will be solved by a science based solution. However, when asked again, she did mention the government is “working as a team on different issues” but she still believes the end result will be solved via science.

China not the only market

Although China is a big player when it comes to the importation of Canadian canola — upwards of 40 per cent to be exact — Minister Carr says he’s on the phone bright and early every morning speaking with his trade counterparts to make sure there’s still other doors open for Canadian canola.

“There are five or six countries with whom we are engaged and where there’s the potential to grow, especially because of these trade agreements that mean that we have lower and lower tariffs,” Carr says as he refers to CETA and CPTPP. “The capacity of our exporters to enter these markets is growing all the time, it’s a very exciting and we’re working hard in making sure that we take full advantage of it .”

Other big players that import Canadian canola include the U.S., Japan, Mexico, and Chile.

As for right now, Richardson International and Viterra remain the only two companies who have had its export license revoked by China; however, sources say other companies are having difficulty in sending their product to China so their withholding until the matter is resolved.

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