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

Man found dead in Sicamous near vehicle linked to suspicious death in Edmonton

The man was found dead on the evening of July 11, 2020

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Shuswap Royal Canadian Legion branches happy to be open again

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, the legion halls are back.

‘It’s really frustrating’: B.C. Indigenous groups share impact of border closures

The closures have resulted in disputes between Indigenous groups and local businesses

Interior Health identifies more locations with COVID-19 exposure in Kelowna

Anyone who participated in events in the Kelowna downtown and waterfront area between June 25 and July 6 should monitor closely for symptoms

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Okanagan sisters-in-law sleep out successful

Kiley Routley and Heidi Routley raise nearly $2,400 and awareness for youth homelessness

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Most Read