Business & Policy
Canada and China plan to double agricultural trade by 2025
By Canola Council of Canada/Top Crop Manager
Canada and China pledged to double agricultural trade by 2025 at the Economic and Financial Strategic Dialogue in Beijing on Nov. 12, co-chaired by Canadian Minister of Finance Bill Morneau and Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr.
The Dialogue set a goal of doubling agricultural trade by 2025 and resulted in both countries committing to timely approval processes for biotechnology products. Current seed innovations in the pipeline cannot be approved for commercialization unless there is approval from Canada’s major export markets, including China.
“Senior political leaders agreeing to double agricultural trade between Canada and China by 2025 is helpful for the canola sector,” says Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada (CCC). “Doubling exports means that we will need to address barriers to trade and turn language about timely approval processes for biotechnology into outcomes.”
So while the agreement is promising, there are still some discussions to be had about reducing agricultural tariffs and other barriers. Agriculture is traditionally one of the most sensitive and protected industries for trading nations. As a result, tariffs on food and agricultural goods are traditionally much higher than on industrial goods. The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) told iPolitics the tariffs imposed by China on Canadian agricultural goods are, on average, 15 per cent higher than on other industrial goods.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay was also present at the Dialogue as agriculture was one of the priority sectors identified for cooperation. A number of commitments were made to enhance cooperation and create a favourable environment for agricultural trade.
The commitment to timely approval processes for biotechnology traits could be helpful because the process has been difficult and slow. Six years after applications for biotech canola traits were submitted, it is not clear when scientists will complete their reviews.
Three canola traits developed using biotechnology are in the final stages of the approval process in China, having been approved in Canada since 2012. These traits include a Liberty tolerance trait from BASF, Bayer’s TruFlex trait and Corteva’s Optimum GLY trait. According to the CCC’s market access policy, seed varieties containing biotech traits are not commercialized until they have been approved in major markets. After approval in China, two of the traits will be ready for commercialization.
The CCC estimates that approval of these traits will allow growers to produce approximately 800 thousand tonnes more canola every year using the same amount of land – a step-change for canola productivity. This equates to approximately $400 million more income for farmers when they are fully commercialized. Improved productivity will come from the increased yield of new seed genetics in combination with the new traits. These new product offerings will convey things like better weed control, greater disease resistance, improved resilience to weather stress from heat, cold, drought and excess moisture, as well as improved agronomic factors like reduced harvest loss.