June 18, 2014

China wants to build business bridges with Erin

As published in The Erin Advocate

Investment and trade in agricultural products is an area of growing interest for businesses in China, and they are looking at rural areas such as Erin for opportunities, according to the Chinese Consul General.

Fang Li and a team from the consulate in Toronto visited Erin last week at the invitation of Mayor Lou Maieron, who organized an Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability tour of Wellington County.

“You are famous for your agricultural industry,” said Li. He noted that while China is the world’s most populous country, it has relatively limited farmland and needs to import good quality grain and organic foods.

Mayor Maieron presented an Erin flag to Consul General Fang Li and his entourage.

“I believe you are in a very sound position to develop economic and trade relations with my country. Also many Chinese enterprises are going abroad for opportunities, especially in high-tech sectors such as information and communication, and renewable and clean energy. I think you could find some suitable Chinese partners.”

Economic and trade relations between Canada and China have increased rapidly since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1970. Canadian statistics show trade valued at $73 billion (US) in 2013, making China its second largest trading partner.

China’s growth rate has slowed in recent years, but it is still at 7.7%. It is a huge market, with annual imports valued at almost $2 trillion (US). It also had 97 million tourists visiting other countries last year, each spending an average of $1,000.

Chinese investments in Canada total some $50 billion, primarily in energy, mining, telecommunications, appliances and financial services. New areas of investor interest include food products, renewable energy, real estate and high-end manufacturing, said Li.

The China Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, signed in 2012, is intended to protect the rights of investors from each country. Li urged the federal government to ratify the agreement.

Also visiting Erin was Sophia Sun, founder of the Canada China Investment Association, which sponsored Maieron’s trip to China with other mayors last year.

“I was completely blown away by the advancements, the culture and the history of a civilization that is more than 5,000 years old,” said the mayor. “We learned how Canadian clean industries, agriculture and other industries could help China and how we could do some business. There’s a great need. The Chinese are wanting to improve their diet, with dairy, animal husbandry – beef and pork – and crops. That’s something that we can do very well.”

The day started with a breakfast meeting at David’s Restaurant, hosted by David Netherton and Mary Shields of the East Wellington Chamber of Commerce. Several business people interested in or currently selling products to China were in attendance.

After Li’s speech and a brief question and answer session with Erin residents, Maieron brought the Chinese delegation for a tour of his trout farm, Silver Creek Aquaculture, then to visit the Angelstone International show jumping venue on County Road 50.

From there they went to see the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre, and the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Guelph. They also went to see the family dairy farm and bio-digester of Mapleton Mayor Bruce Whale. To finish the day they toured the Grand River Raceway in Elora and watched horse racing over dinner.