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.

BC legislature

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

Just Posted

Wanted Alberta man linked to Shuswap stabbing turns himself in

Terrance Alan Jones is charged with attempted murder and other offences in relation to an Aug. 16 incident in Blind Bay

Salmon Arm holding off on plastic shopping bag ban

Provincial support gives weight to municipal bylaws banning single-use plastic bags

Sylvia Lindgren to run for BC NDP in Shuswap riding

Lindgren says investments in housing, childcare and seniors care must continue

Netflix star Francesca Farago seen hanging in the Okanagan

Farago got her big break as a reality TV star in Netflix’s ‘Too Hot to Handle’ in 2020

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

Peachland resident finds severed bear paw on driveway

Tracie Gordon thought it was a Halloween prank, but it turned out to be a real bear paw

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Most Read