Canola has shown Canada the way forward and there’s no reason to believe even more export gains can’t be achieved, despite today’s trade-anxious environment, says Canada’s international trade minister.
“I really encourage you to seize the moment. This is unprecedented,” Francois-Philippe Champagne said to the Canola Council of Canada’s 50th annual convention March 8.
“I think the CETA agreement (Canada’s trade agreement with the European Union) has the same potential that NAFTA (North American Trade Agreement) had.”
CETA, China, Japan and southeast Asia all offer Canada opportunities for increased trade, especially in the light of Canada’s “progressive trade agenda,” Champagne said.
“There has never been a better time to be Brand Canada. Everyone in the world wants a piece of the action. Everyone wants to do business with Canada.”
While skepticism and outright hostility to trade are rife in many parts of the world, including Europe and the United States, Champagne said Canada can find a way to avoid stirring opposition while negotiating better market access around the world.
He called CETA a “perfect example of a modern, progressive agreement” that “protects labour, puts the middle class front and centre, and recognizes the importance of trade…. This is how we will build and maintain support for trade in an age of anti-trade and anti-globalization sentiment.”
Champagne noted that there have been no reports of problems with exports of canola to China in the months since a new agreement was reached last fall that allayed its governments concerns with blackleg levels.
Canola exports this crop year are at a record pace at 6.44 million tonnes, up 13 percent over last year at the same point.
Despite a furious pace of travel around the world doing his job as “Canada’s chief marketing officer,” Champagne seemed to enjoy the canola council convention as he met with Patti Miller, the Canadian Grain Commission’s new chief commissioner, talked with journalists for longer than the time allotted, met with the canola council’s board, gave his speech and then got ready to fly to London to continue his (at that point) 20 days of straight travelling.
He also paid a compliment to Gerry Ritz, the former Conservative agriculture minister, describing him as a “strong advocate for trade.”
Since coming to power, the Liberal government has stayed close to the previous Conservative government’s trade expansion agenda, which itself generally continued the previous Liberal government’s pro-trade agenda.
The canola industry’s booming growth, tripling its economic impact for Canada to $26.7 billion over the past decade, was highlighted multiple times during the convention.
Champagne described canola as “probably the biggest success story in our country” in terms of what innovation and exports can do for the nation.
“You are a great example of what can be achieved when all parts of an industry and value chain work together towards a common goal.”