Swift Current MLA feeling upbeat about trade trip to China with Premier
Swift Current MLA Everett Hindley accompanied Premier Scott Moe on a trade mission to China to promote trade relations with one of Saskatchewan's largest trading partners.
The Saskatchewan delegation departed on Sept. 15 on the week-long mission. It included more than 20 business representatives from the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP).
The goal of the mission was to explore trade opportunities that will increase market access for Saskatchewan exports to China, to promote investment in Saskatchewan and to highlight the province's technical know-how in carbon capture and storage.
“Saskatchewan is one of the most trade oriented provinces in Canada and China is actually our second largest export market,” Hindley said. “We export about 70 per cent of everything we produce and almost 14,000 jobs in Saskatchewan rely directly on exports to China. So this is pretty critical for us to go to China. We had a busy week of meetings and functions, both in Beijing and in Harbin, and I think we're well situated right now.”
The United States is Saskatchewan's top trading partner, followed by China and India. Saskatchewan exported over $3.5 billion in goods to China in 2017 and exports have grown by 33 per cent since 2013.
The agri-food sector is a significant portion of Saskatchewan's exports to China, and it was responsible for $2.8 billion in sales in 2017. China has invested more than $1 billion in Saskatchewan during the past 10 years.
Hindley noted that it is important for Saskatchewan to focus on trade relations with China and India due to their growing economies.
“China's population is growing, there's 1.4 billion people there, and they've got a limited amount of arable land to produce their own crops,” he said.
Hindley was appointed in May as the legislative secretary to the minister of trade and export development. This was his third trip to China. His previous two trips in 2012 and 2016 took place when he was the executive assistant to Saskatchewan's former premier, Brad Wall.
“It does give me a bit of insight, having been there a couple of times previously,” Hindley said. “We met with some new companies that we hadn't before and other ones that we had. I was in a different capacity and a different role before, but this is a chance for me to get a bit more involved directly on this file as the MLA for Swift Current and as the legislative secretary for trade and export development. So I think it was somewhat helpful and I hope I was able to provide the premier with some insight and some assistance on this particular trip and I'm looking forward to doing so on future trade missions.”
Premier Moe had 17 meetings with government, industry, and business leaders during the trip. He delivered a keynote address at a STEP-China Canada Business Council luncheon, and he attended a harvest field day in Heilongjian province, where he made a speech about the link between potash and improved crop yields for Chinese farmers. “We received a very good reception while we were out there,” Hindley said about the trip. “We had a busy schedule of meetings and functions for us to participate in. ... While we were there, some of the additional tariffs from the United States on China were announced. So we would go into meetings and obviously that would come up and it was fortunate for us, because that allowed us to promote our province and our country as a safe and reliable trading partner.” Some of the discussions during the trip focused on energy related issues. Premier Moe promoted the export of Canadian uranium as a safe and sustainable source of energy, and he delivered a keynote address at the 2018 Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Forum at the China University of Petroleum in Beijing. Hindley feels there is potential for cooperation between Saskatchewan and China on the use of carbon capture and storage technology. “China is one of the leaders when it comes to investing in clean coal technology,” Hindley said. “They have a large number of coal-fired power plants and they have some challenges as well when it comes to what they're going to do with regards to emissions.” He noted that carbon capture expertise has been developed in Saskatchewan through SaskPower's Boundary Dam 3 carbon capture facility and the work of the International CCS Knowledge Centre in Regina, which is an active partner in China. “It is something that I think that China is definitely interested in, in terms of the technology and the possibilities that are on the horizon,” he said. An important part of this trade mission to China is the follow-up that will be done afterwards to take action with regard to issues that were discussed during meetings. “The worst thing you can do is come back from spending a week in a market like China and then not follow up the leads that you've been given,” he said. “So having a chance to be in China for a week and meeting one on one with these companies and with members from the government, we get a lot of questions and opportunities posed to us and we need to make sure we do follow up on those. There is going to be some substantial follow-up with the groups and organizations that we met with in China to try and help foster some additional relationships here and maybe close some deals, because what's important at the end of the day is to make sure that we can work to promote Saskatchewan's interest and the interest of our people.”
Premier Scott Moe (at left) and Swift Current MLA Everett Hindley met with Beijing Agriculture Production Group. The company is a large importer of potash from Saskatchewan. Behind them are bags with the Canadian maple leaf.