Ben Stewart, then B.C. trade representative for China, and former forests minister Steve Thomson visit Nanjing Technical University facilities, Dec. 3, 2016. B.C. has four trade offices in China as part of its Asia trade network. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. to ‘embed’ Asia trade offices in Canadian embassies

Opposition MLAs call it short-sighted effort to cut costs

Opposition MLAs say the B.C. government’s decision to close its stand-alone trade offices in Asian countries is an effort to cut costs that will have long-term consequences for the province’s economy.

The move was revealed late Thursday by Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart, who served for three years as B.C.’s trade representative in China after vacating his seat following the 2013 provincial election.

Stewart called the decision “a slap in the face to important partners,” with “no plan to bridge relationships with our Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Filipino, Korean and Indian business partners.”

The NDP government has been cutting costs across ministries as its billion-dollar surplus has dwindled during the two and a half years of its minority government. Letters to officials in charge of the B.C. trade offices hint at cost saving as one of the reasons.

“The province wishes to ensure our international resources reflect our trade diversification network, continue to meet the needs of B.C. businesses and provide B.C. with the best value for their investment,” states a letter obtained by Stewart giving three months’ notice to close the B.C. trade office in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“That is why we are actively working with Global Affairs Canada to embed provincial employees in embassies and consulates across Asia. This will allow the province to leverage the considerable international investments the federal government has made in Global Affairs Canada the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service and Invest in Canada.”

RELATED: B.C. lumber industry still has high hopes for China

RELATED: B.C. lumber exports shift to U.S. as China sales slump

The latest Asia trade office to open is in Singapore, announced in March 2018 by Bruce Ralston, jobs, trade and technology minister in the NDP government. An office in Malaysia was opened in May 2016 by then-minister Mike de Jong, B.C. Liberal MLA for Abbotsford West.

B.C. trade offices are located in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Manila, Jakarta, Singapore, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarb and Hyderbad. All are changing from contractors and leased offices to being “co-located” in Canadian embassies and consulates, which is similar to other provinces, Ralston said in a statement Friday morning.

“British Columbia wants to expand and diversify our presence in Asia and connect more closely with the federal government’s international resources,” Ralston said. “We think this change will better help B.C. businesses and give British Columbia the best value for the investment they are making.”

B.C.’s trade outreach to Asia includes four offices in China, which rose to become the province’s second largest forest products importer after the U.S. during the past 10 years. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson accompanied forest industry executives on his second Asia trade mission last fall, including meetings with Chinese government and industry officials.

Donaldson cut short his first trade trip in December 2017 without entering China, in the wake of international tensions over Canada’s arrest of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou shortly before he left with a delegation of B.C. forest products executives.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Province looking at steps to dissolve Jumbo resort municipality

Disincorporating municipality will likely require a legislative change, according to the province

Changes to Kootenay Lake terminals underway

Progress is reported on new vessel, dredging, and terminal changes

Almost 20,000 parking tickets issued by Interior Health at hospitals in 2019

In 2018, pay parking in Interior Health hospitals totalled $5.3 million of their $2.2-billion budget

Over 7,600 birds in Creston Valley’s 2019 Christmas Bird Count

Over 60 volunteers participated by counting Creston Valley birds on Dec. 27

WHO says China virus not global health emergency

The decision came after Chinese authorities moved to lock down three cities on Thursday

Uber, Lyft approved for ride-hailing in Lower Mainland

Kater Technologies Inc.’s application was rejected

VIDEO: ‘Porn’ answer was a wrong one for Surrey family on ‘Feud’ game show

Surrey’s Rams competed on the TV show Wednesday night

Abandoned boats left to freeze on Okanagan Lake cause chaos

Over the last week weather conditions have caused three separate incidents

B.C. teacher witnesses coronavirus terror in Shanghai: ‘Everyone is on edge’

Face masks and hand sanitizer ‘sell out’ as 9 SARS-like illness cases confirmed in the city

B.C.-based firefighting plane crashes in Australia, killing three

Three people are confirmed dead in the crash in New South Wales

Living near major roads linked to higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s: UBC study

Green space could mitigate some of the risks, researchers found

B.C. privacy commissioner suggests media civility for Prince Harry and Meghan

Lawyers for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reportedly sent a letter to British press threatening legal action

Most Read