Business leaders for British Columbia’s forestry industry will continue on to China, even as political representatives will cut a trip to Asia short.
B.C. Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson has decided to head back to British Columbia as the province grapples with the fallout of the detention of a top Huawei executive in Canada.
The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, who was detained while changing flights last week in Vancouver, was seen by Donaldson as a distraction that would hurt the efforts of promoting the province’s forestry industry in China.
WATCH: Meng Wanzhou bail hearing overshadowed by threats of retaliation from China
“There will be a number of business representatives who have meetings arranged,” Donaldson said. “We thought it would be prudent for a minister of the crown to postpone this portion. However we are very interested in rescheduling the government portion of the visit.”
Donaldson is currently in Japan and has already had meetings with the entire delegation in South Korea. The Chinese market is incredibly important to the province’s forestry industry.
WATCH: Amid Huawei CFO arrest, B.C. trade mission to end trip early, foregoing China visit
“China is [the] number two market for our exports, Japan number three and South Korea number five. It’s extremely important,” Donaldson said.
“There are still untapped potential in those markets.”
The United States is seeking to have Meng extradited on allegations that she tried to evade American trade sanctions on Iran. The Chinese government has warned Canada that if Meng is not released, the country will face “grave consequences.”
Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns over its ties to the Chinese government
Susan Yurkovich, president of the Council of Forest Industries, says British Columbia’s forestry leaders have spent a long time building relationships in China and should be regarded as separate from Meng’s legal battle.
“We respect there is an issue that needs to be resolved within governments and we believe that is separate from business,” Yurkovich said. “We understand the minister’s decision to return to Vancouver and not distract the work we are doing with our customers.
“We had very good support from the Chinese government. They are interested in our products.”
— with files from The Canadian Press