Premier David Eby says the trade tour to Asia is a way to protect British Columbia against potential trade tensions in the world’s fast-growing and arguably most important economic region.
Eby and Jobs Minister Brenda Bailey left for Asia Saturday (May 27) from Vancouver International Airport where Eby held a briefing and took comments from media before departing.
He said with the recently launched trade diversification strategy, the “whole idea is that our province is stronger the deeper our trade relationships with more countries.”
Having “just one or two trading partners,” he said, puts B.C. at risk.
“We see around the world, geopolitical tensions. We’ve seen closed borders with COVID. We’ve seen war between Russia and Ukraine. These all bring strong implications for our economy right here at home in British Columbia.”
Eby will first be heading to Japan, then South Korea and Singapore.
He said the countries he’s visiting “all face similar challenges” as B.C. when it comes to housing, with “very constrained land, large populations, significant demand for housing and they all address the housing issue differently.”
Eby added he’s also looking forward to Japan and speaking with officials there about transit. He said when Japan announces a new transit project, the government buys up adjacent land for transit-oriented development.
Minister of State for Trade Jagrup Brar has already been in Vietnam where B.C. last year opened a Trade and Investment Representative office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s capital. Brar was officially opening the office. Forestry Innovation Investment, a Crown agency, also opened an office in the Vietnamese province of Binh Duong to promote wood products from B.C. in one of the world’s largest maker of wood furniture.
Central to these tensions is the dispute over the status of Taiwan, but also other issues. They include concerns about Chinese spying through the popular social-media platform TikTok; the arrest of western citizens on trumped-up criminal charges; and interference in democratic elections.
Eby made these comments as he and other members of his cabinet are fanning out across Asia to promote B.C. in face of growing tensions between the United States and its allies including Canada on one hand and Mainland China on the other hand.
Brar will then join Eby as well as Energy Minister Josie Osborne and Bailey in Japan, B.C.’s third-largest export market after the United States and mainland China. They will arrive in South Korea — B.C.’s fourth-most important market — on May 31. Eby will then visit Singapore, one of the world’s leading economic centres, between June 3 to June 7.
This itinerary shows that B.C. looks to maintain already existing trade arrangements with key markets, while establishing new ones in markets with room to grow. Singapore and Vietnam are the 22nd and 25th most-important markets for B.C. respectively.
Eby said B.C. has so much to offer the world, including a talented workforce, sustainable products and services and an abundance of the natural resources, technology and energy needed to power the clean economy.
– With files from Bailey Morton