Canadian government to open Indo-Pacific agriculture trade office

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced several new pieces of the Canadian government’s yet-to-be-released Indo-Pacific Strategy while in Thailand for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting on Friday.

The announcement included $31.8 million designated to establish Canada’s first agriculture trade office in the region to “increase and diversify agriculture and agri-food exports to the Indo-Pacific, strengthening trade on both sides of the Pacific.”

Organizations that represent agricultural commodities that are exported to Asian markets, including beef, canola, pork, pulses, soybeans, and wheat, have been calling for an increased presence in the region.

Reaction to the announcement was swift, as the Canola Council of Canada, Cereals Canada, and Pulse Canada issued a joint statement applauding the news:

“The Indo-Pacific region represents a significant opportunity for Canada to diversify its agricultural exports while positively impacting global food security. Today’s announcement is a significant and positive investment by the federal government in support of Canadian agriculture.

Our organizations, which represent over $45 billion in annual economic activity and support over 250,000 jobs, are pleased to see the inclusion of a Canadian Indo-Pacific Agriculture and Agri-Food Office in the government’s Indo-Pacific strategy. While Canada’s cereals, canola and pulse industries enjoy a significant export share within the region and there are great opportunities, the rise of non-tariff barriers may prevent Canada from achieving its full potential in the region. New resources to tackle sanitary and phytosanitary issues in a strategic, coordinated manner with industry will help maintain and build market access for Canada’s agriculture exports. We want to thank the federal government for recognizing the important role Canadian agriculture will play in growing exports in this region…

Our focus will now turn to ensuring this office is set up for success. Our organizations, together with others in the sector, will continue to work with government to establish a Canadian Indo-Pacific Agriculture and Agri-Food Office focused on delivering results that Canadian agriculture needs to serve this valuable, growing region.”

Soy Canada also issued a statement welcoming the creation of the office, and thanking trade minister Mary Ng, agriculture and agri-food minister Marie-Claude Bibeau for their support.

“Nearly every day I get calls asking about Canadian soybeans, to resolve issues, or to do more promotion of our products in Indo-Pacific markets,” noted Brian Innes, Soy Canada executive director. “We’re ready to work arm in arm with our government partners to make today’s modest investment produce results.”

The value of exports to Indo-Pacific markets is often hampered by misperceptions, phytosanitary issues, unscientific policies on seed innovation and crop protection and limited engagement of regulatory experts, said the national soybean organization.

“Our exporters are on the ground talking to customers and hearing how we can bring value to them, but often, we need our government at the table to resolve issues and create opportunity,” said Innes. “Targeting today’s investment through a collaborative approach with our industry can bring real value by increasing the price we’re paid and reducing risk.”

Meanwhile, Murad Al-Katib, president of the Canadian Pulse and Special Crops Trade Association (CPSC), called the announcement “great news for our industry.”

“We look forward to working alongside government to ensure this new office helps CPSC members directly address and tear down barriers while opening new opportunities to grow our industry,” said Al-Katib.

Dan Darling, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA), noted agricultural exporters have “long called for deeper trade and investment ties throughout the Indo-Pacific region, and we welcome all efforts to grow Canada’s presence and relations in markets that are vital to our long-term prosperity.”

While Singapore has been mentioned by industry sources as a possible location, the announcement did not specify in which country or city/cities the office will physically be located.

“We look forward to reviewing details of the investments announced today and engaging with officials and other policy- and decision-makers as they are implemented,” added Darling. “We will continue to work alongside the federal government on several priority trade negotiations in the Indo-Pacific including bilateral talks with India, Indonesia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the continued expansion of the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The Canadian Cattle Association (CCA) also says they are happy with the announcement, as the Indo-Pacific region holds the greatest potential for market growth and diversification.

“We are particularly pleased to see the inclusion of a Canadian Indo-Pacific Agriculture and Agri-Food Office to increase and diversify agricultural exports in the region, an ask CCA has consistently made to the federal government,” said Reg Schellenberg, CCA President. “It is important for Canada to have a proactive presence in the region to help address market access barriers and increase Canadian beef exports by maintaining stable and open trade.”

Also included in the announcement on Friday was $45 million to launch a series of enhanced Minister-led trade missions to the Indo-Pacific to support exporters and regionally-based Canadian Chambers of Commerce in Indo-Pacific markets to facilitate long-term trade and investment opportunities. $92.5 million has also been committed to expanding capacity at Canada’s missions in the Indo-Pacific and within Global Affairs Canada to deepen diplomatic, trade, development, and climate ties with regional partners and defend Canadian interests in the region.

The prime minister also announced $24 million to establish a “Canadian Trade Gateway” or hub for Southeast Asia last week, which could potentially be linked to the agriculture trade office.

 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated multiple times with comments from Soy Canada, the Canadian Pulse and Special Crops Trade Association, the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, and the Canadian Cattle Association.

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