Moe set to pitch Sask. in China
Premier heading on trade mission in hopes of growing exports, opportunities
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.”
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.