Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrapped up another successful international mission this week to Asia.
While many Canadian industries saw doors opened wider and new opportunities arise, our farmers benefitted significantly from the results of that visit. In the lead-up to the mission China announced it had re-opened their lucrative markets to Canadian pork exporters.
Earlier this year, China had banned imports of Canadian pork due to concerns about H1N1. Given that Canada’s pork exports to China were valued at $47-million in 2008, this was a significant victory for our pork producers. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Stockwell Day were obviously successful in making the point to Chinese officials that bans on imports of pork and swine from countries with human or animal cases of H1N1 do not comply with international standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
This lifting of the ban by China acknowledges that influenza viruses do not affect the safety of properly cooked pork and influenza is not a food-borne disease.
Our Government continues to work with China to remove its ban on live swine imports to ensure Canadian pork producers also regain that access to Chinese markets as soon as possible. The Prime Minister’s Asia trade mission also brought good news for Canadian Canola producers after Minister Ritz’s successful meeting with Chinese officials resulted in China slowly reopening its borders to Canadian canola imports.
China says it will raise imports of Canadian canola by an additional 200,000 tonnes in 2010. That’s worth as much as $180-million to our canola farmers according to the Canola Council of Canada. The success didn’t end there.
Later in the mission, Prime Minister Harper announced that Canada has regained full access for Canadian beef to the key export market of Hong Kong, following his meeting with Donald Tsang, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. In 2008, Hong Kong was Canada’s fourth largest export market for beef.
In all, the Hong Kong market is worth more than a half a billion dollars for Canada’s farmers and processors. Last month, Minister Ritz was also in Japan to seek greater access to the Japanese market for Canadian beef producers.
While access for Canadian beef exports to Japan are currently restricted to products from animals under 21 months of age, the Minister was in Japan to emphasize to the newly elected government that Canadian beef is recognized as safe by international scientific organizations.
Our Conservative Government has made securing existing markets and opening new markets a priority so that Canadian exporters can create new jobs here at home.
In addition to re-opening and expanding our most lucrative markets, like those in Asia, we have already concluded new free trade agreements with the states of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein), Colombia, Peru, Jordan and Panama.
While we will continue with our important trade agenda and I will continue to remind Cabinet colleagues of the importance of agriculture, what happened half a world away this month has been like an early Christmas present for farmers in Prince George-Peace River.