2017 is a momentous year for Canada. The peaceful nation, famous for maple syrup, the Niagara Falls and ice hockey is celebrating its 150th birthday. Blessed with a thriving economy and outstanding natural beauty, Canada has become a modern leader in the Western Hemisphere. Inclusiveness and openness are at the heart of Canada’s foreign policy and diplomatic ties. In 1970, Canada was one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with China and the two countries are continuing to strengthen their relations.
“The China-Canada relationship was one of huge potential and the foundation stones were laid early in order to support what has become a substantial economic relationship,” says Graham Shantz, President of the Canada China Business Council (CCBC), a bilateral non-profit organization founded in 1978 and a leading voice of Canadian businesses in China. “Many of our members have been active in China for decades with investments in real estate, the consumer space, insurance, banking and wealth management”.
Today, there are over 250 Canadian companies in China operating as wholly-owned enterprises or joint-venture companies. In 2003, China became Canada’s second largest trading partner after the United States.
“Over the past 10years, the range of Canadian goods exported to China and the overall trading relationship has expanded dramatically,” explains Benoit Daignault, President and Chief Executive Officer of Export Development Canada (EDC).
“In 2007 Canada exported CAD $9.5 billion worth of goods to China. Last year that number had more than doubled to CAD$20.9 billion. Today, with over 50 percent of China’s population living in more affluent urban centers, demand for Canadian products has increased dramatically. Processed foods, automotive parts and environmental technologies are increasingly exported from Canada to the Chinese market.”
Traditional Canadian exports to China continue to include pulp and paper, grains, petroleum, oil seeds, aerospace parts, raw materials, precious metals and minerals.
“China is Canada’s third-largest market for Canadian mineral products after the United States and the European Union with an export value in excess of CAD$4.6 billion in 2015,” says Pierre Gratton, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Mining Association of Canada.
“We have moved from what was largely a trade relationship of imports and exports to a far more complex set of commercial interactions,” adds Shantz. “For example, students from China now represent over one third of international students studying in Canada.”
Inbound investment from China is also on the rise with Vancouver, British Columbia acting as the “gatewaycity.”
“Vancouver is arguably the most ‘Asian city’ outside of Asia,” says the Honorable Yuen Pau Woo, Senator of Canada, former President of HQ Vancouver and Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. “The city provides a unique platform for investors from China and other Asian countries as they access the North American market. Chinese companies are establishing head offices in British Columbia to take advantage of the skilled, multi-cultural talent pool, favorable location and welcoming business climate. These investments go well beyond the traditional resource sector to include digital media, cultural industries and advanced technologies.”
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and China’s leadership are working closely together to strengthen bilateral relations. These include the Leaders’ Dialogue, the Canada-China Economic and Financial Strategic Dialogue and the China-Canada Innovation Dialogue.
“Last year we highlighted the huge potential of a freetrade agreement between our two countries,” concludes Shantz. “Both governments are working to double two-way trade by 2025. As we approach the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations, the CCBC will help celebrate what has been achieved so far while advocating even deeper ties. We are heartened by President Xi’s recent speeches on the positive international role China intends to play on the world stage and the commitment his administration has made towards economic reforms. When this vision is realized, it will undoubtedly deepen our two-way commercial engagement.”