Expanding trade with Asia

As Members of Parliament prepare to bid each other “Merry Christmas” and return to constituencies across Canada, there are numerous issues that parliament is dealing with, some of which are the focus of the media.

As Members of Parliament prepare to bid each other “Merry Christmas” and return to constituencies across Canada, there are numerous issues that parliament is dealing with, some of which are the focus of the media. However, the phone calls and letters coming into my office – to a large extent – don’t reflect the media’s concentration.

The folks contacting me, as your Member of Parliament, are concerned about day-to-day issues. These issues are recession-fighting bread and butter issues upon which the livelihoods and prosperity of average Canadian workers and their families rely.

For example, recently I received a call from a farmer in Botha. My constituent and I talked for a while and wound up concluding that while governments should be prepared with disaster relief programs that serve farmers when emergencies arise, most farmers do not want to have to depend on the federal government to earn a living. Our government is in the business of providing opportunities for Canadians to earn a good living by working hard to maintain a strong economy. In the agriculture industry, for example, a good way to ensure this is to ensure that Canadians have markets to sell our products.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made some large strides over the past few weeks visiting India, Korea and China. Of greatest importance to us is the lifting of bans on imports of Canadian pork and beef in Hong Kong and China. Last year, Hong Kong was our fourth largest beef customer and Canada’s farmers sold them more than half a billion dollars worth of agriculture products. Going forward, Canadian beef has full access to that market.

“Achieving full access to an important market such as Hong Kong sends a strong signal to the entire Asia-Pacific region that Canadian beef is safe and that Canada’s food safety systems are grounded in sound science,” said the Prime Minister. “This deal is further proof that our Government is expanding trade so that our farmers can sell to more customers in the international market.”

The prime minister managed to have the top South Korean government officials talking about their ban on Canadian beef as we get closer to a free-trade agreement with South Korea – the world’s 15th largest economy. This is progress, however painfully slow.

In fact, Harper maintains that Canada is in a better position than the United States or Western Europe to capitalize on Asia’s economic growth. He adds, “Canada is only scratching the surface” when it comes to economic opportunities in Asia.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz , accompanying the prime minister was working for the future of Canadian canola oil exports to China. He assured China that Canadian farmers produce a consistent supply of canola and new canola crushing plants are dramatically increasing the volume of canola oil available for export. The goal is to increase Canadian canola oil exports to China by an additional 200,000 tonnes for a total of 350,000 tonnes in 2010. The Canola Council of Canada estimates these increased sales will be worth $180 million.

“We have every reason to believe that the markets in the United States and Europe will probably experience continued slower growth for some time to come,” Harper says, “So the great opportunity is obviously in the Asia-Pacific region.” Asia is becoming the largest area of economic growth in the world and our prime minister is delivering the message that Canada has the natural resources to fuel that growth.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns you may write me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800-665-4358, fax 780-608-4603 or e-mail sorenk1@parl.gc.ca.