Canada is reaching out to other countries to determine if they will increase imports of Canadian canola amidst the Chinese embargo, says International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr.
In an interview with The Western Producer March 29, Carr said Canada will press the scientific approach to Chinese officials to resolve the canola dispute, but opportunities have recently opened up in other parts of Asia with the enactment of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership with 10 Asian countries.
China has placed import restrictions on canola from two Canadian companies, Richardson International and Viterra, but Canadian industry officials say no Canadian canola is being accepted in China.
Chinese officials have said pests have been found in the canola, but many think that the arrest of Weng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of state-owned Huawei, in Vancouver in January pending extradition to the United States, is at the root of China’s actions.
Canadian officials have re-tested canola destined for China and found no pests.
Since the CPTPP went into effect Dec. 30, “Canadian exports to Japan and other countries in the region are considerably up year over year,” Carr said. “And the estimates are $780 million of canola export potential in those countries.”
Carr said he has been “working the phones to talk to my counterparts in countries where we have a relationship to accept Canadian canola (such as the United States, Japan and Pakistan) to see if there’s an interest and an appetite to accept more.”
Canada is also taking a lead role in reforming the World Trade Organization to give it more teeth in trade and dispute settlement, Carr said.
“If we had a rules-based international trading system, then we would have fewer problems than we have now. Canada is leading an initiative among like-minded nations to reform the WTO. And we’re doing it because we think that there are protectionist forces throughout the world.”
Still, Canada intends to pursue a strong trading relationship with China, said Carr.
Noting that Canada and China have resolved previous trade issues, he pointed to Richardson International, the first Canadian company to be hit with import restrictions by China, which signed its first trade deal with China in 1910. So Canada is likely to be trading with China long into the future, he said.
Carr joined a chorus of Canadian officials who say pursuing a science-based approach remains the correct approach to resolving the dispute.
“They are making allegations this canola has pests and impurities.… We say please show us the evidence. We want this to be a science discussion … We hope that they will either produce the evidence or invite us to have a look at it, or both, but that hasn’t happened yet.”
The federal government’s approach aligns with what provincial governments believe is the best path, he said.