Week of March 23rd Slider (2)

Alberta’s trade minister off to Asia to drum up business, investment, market access

Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous is heading to China and South Korea for two weeks in an effort to drum up more business and investment in Alberta.

Bilous will be overseas March 18-31, spending time in five Chinese cities — Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing — before ending the trip with two days in Seoul.

“It’s important we build on our strength. When we talk about diversification, it’s not just diversifying our economy beyond oil and gas, it’s also diversifying our markets,” Bilous said Thursday. “Right now, we do export a significant amount of agriculture, agri-foods and forestry products, but there is definitely the potential for much more.”

The first meeting listed on Bilous’s itinerary is with Ron Hoffmann, Alberta’s senior representative for the Asia Pacific Basin.

Highlights include a discussion with the Hong Kong Trade and Development Corp., meetings with a pair of science and technology groups, attendance at a Chinese petroleum technology exhibition and participation in two events to promote Canadian beef.

China is Alberta’s second-largest trading partner, while South Korea ranks fifth. Exports to both countries totalled more than $3.8 billion last year, he said.

The estimated cost of the trip is $65,800 for the minister and two staff members.

This is the second time the NDP government has sent a cabinet minister to Asia. Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd went to China last October.

While former Progressive Conservative government members tended to make frequent appearances in Asia each year, Bilous said his government plans to be more strategic with its overseas trips.

“We want to make sure we are balancing, getting value from each of our trips, but also recognizing, especially in the economy right now, that we need to spend every tax dollar very prudently and wisely,” he said. “For us, we are going to pick and choose when we go, but we are going to also make sure we are maximizing every minute we’re there.”

He said the government is also looking at “refocusing” the activities of its 11 international trade offices, eight of which are in Asia.

“Quite frankly, under the previous government, they were very much trying to be everything to everyone, as opposed to really focusing on attracting investment dollars that will create jobs here in Alberta,” he said.

News source: http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/albertas-trade-minister-off-to-asia-to-drum-up-business-investment-market-access