Moe set to pitch Sask. in China

Pre­mier head­ing on trade mis­sion in hopes of grow­ing ex­ports, op­por­tu­ni­ties

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY+REGION - ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY awhite-crummey@post­media.com

REGINA Pre­mier Scott Moe is leav­ing on his first trip to China on Satur­day for a week­long mis­sion to pro­mote Saskatchewan prod­ucts in the prov­ince’s sec­ond most im­por­tant ex­port mar­ket.

The trip will fea­ture meet­ings with Chi­nese gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and business lead­ers, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease, which said the aim is to “im­prove mar­ket ac­cess” and “high­light Saskatchewan’s at­trac­tive in­vest­ment cli­mate.”

“China has be­come about a $3.5-bil­lion ex­port mar­ket for our prov­ince, and we will be en­gag­ing there to pre­serve and ex­pand the op­por­tu­ni­ties that we have,” Moe told re­porters on Fri­day.

“It’s im­por­tant for us as the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to be there to en­sure that Saskatchewan in­dus­tries that we have are rep­re­sented within the state gov­ern­ments and the na­tional gov­ern­ment in China.”

China has a vo­ra­cious ap­petite for agri­cul­tural re­sources and fer­til­izer, buy­ing $1.4 bil­lion worth of canola seed and $504 mil­lion of potash from Saskatchewan last year. But Moe sees room for fur­ther growth. He said he wants to stress the “sus­tain­abil­ity ” of what Saskatchewan has to of­fer.

He ar­gues that the prov­ince’s ura­nium, for ex­am­ple, can af­fect the “global con­ver­sa­tion with respect to cli­mate change.” China re­lies heav­ily on coal for its en­ergy needs and has been look­ing for ways to rein in its emis­sions in ac­cor­dance with its Paris Agree­ment pledge with­out com­pro­mis­ing growth.

That might help ex­plain why the pre­mier is slated to de­liver a key­note speech on Saskatchewan’s ex­pe­ri­ence with car­bon cap­ture and stor­age tech­nol­ogy at a fo­rum in Bei­jing. The prov­ince is no longer mov­ing for­ward with car­bon cap­ture and stor­age, af­ter achiev­ing mixed re­sults at its Bound­ary Dam fa­cil­i­ties.

But Swift Cur­rent MLA Everett Hind­ley, who is ac­com­pa­ny­ing the pre­mier on the trip, said there have al­ready been con­ver­sa­tions with Chi­nese of­fi­cials about the tech­nol­ogy on pre­vi­ous trade mis­sions.

The trip comes at a time of trade tur­moil. Moe said his visit to China is not “di­rectly re­lated” to risks as­so­ci­ated with stalled North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA) ne­go­ti­a­tions, which could com­pro­mise mar­ket ac­cess to the United States. But he said it’s part of a broader ef­fort to di­ver­sify ex­ports and “en­sure we are not as re­liant on one mar­ket.”

He pointed to the steep dis­count that Cana­dian oil trades at rel­a­tive to the crude bench­mark, West Texas In­ter­me­di­ate. The gap has ex­panded re­cently to as high as $34.50 per bar­rel, ac­cord­ing to Reuters, with Moe es­ti­mat­ing the loss to Saskatchewan at about $300 mil­lion per year.

The prob­lem is re­lated to a lack of pipe­line ac­cess to mar­kets out­side the United States.

“It’s a tremen­dous chal­lenge, if you will, when you only have one cus­tomer for cer­tain prod­ucts that we ex­port,” he said. “We want to pre­serve ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to en­sure that some of our other in­dus­tries don’t find them­selves in that same locked-in, one-cus­tomer mar­ket.”

In ad­di­tion to 17 meet­ings with gov­ern­ment, in­dus­try and business lead­ers and his ad­dress at the car­bon cap­ture fo­rum, Moe’s itin­er­ary also in­cludes a speech about potash for Chi­nese farm­ers at a Har­vest Field Day event.

He will be joined by more than 20 in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Saskatchewan Trade and Ex­port Part­ner­ship (STEP) del­e­ga­tion. They come from the agri­cul­ture, agri-value, man­u­fac­tur­ing and ag­biotech sec­tors, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment.

NDP MLA Trent Wother­spoon, who is as­so­ci­ate op­po­si­tion critic for the econ­omy, said be­ing en­gaged with China and build­ing trust is “im­por­tant” for Saskatchewan. But he said former Saskatchewan Party MLA Bill Boyd’s trip to China, where the former min­is­ter falsely claimed that the gov­ern­ment sup­ported his business, has “de­te­ri­o­rated” that trust.

The del­e­ga­tion will head to China in the midst of re­ports of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in the coun­try’s Xin­jiang re­gion, where the gov­ern­ment is re­port­edly putting large num­bers of Uygur Mus­lims into in­tern­ment camps for po­lit­i­cal in­doc­tri­na­tion. China has de­nied the re­ports.

Moe said trade and hu­man rights need to be sep­a­rated.

“We do not im­pose our val­ues and our be­liefs on other coun­tries,” he said. “But we ex­press how we be­lieve peo­ple should act from a hu­man rights per­spec­tive. The trip that we’re on here, this time, is an eco­nomic trade mis­sion and that’s what we will be dis­cussing.”

BRAN­DON HARDER

Pre­mier Scott Moe says his planned trip to China is an eco­nomic trade mis­sion that will in­clude a talk on car­bon cap­ture and a speech about potash for Chi­nese farm­ers.

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