Saskatchewan trade minister heading to India with former PM Stephen Harper

Sask. is committing to reconciliation and increasing Indigenous participation in the economy by introducing a legislation to grow Indigenous involvement in the provincial economy. File / Global News

The provincial government is sending its trade minister overseas to advocate for improved market access for Saskatchewan exports in India.

Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said India has rapidly growing needs for food, fuel and fertilizer and Saskatchewan is well-positioned to help meet all of those needs.

“We have seen significant declines in exports to India over the course of the last four years so we’ve gone from nearly $2 billion a year of exports from this province in 2015 to approximately $650 million last year,” he said.

“We’re going to work to re-establish those trading relationships and ensure that we’re going to be exporting more product into that market.”

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Harrison will be joined on the trade mission by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. The provincial government contracted his firm, Harper and Associates, to provide support and advice on international engagement.

The minister said on Nov. 15 that having Harper on the trip wasn’t political but knew which one between the former and current prime minister would have a better impact for his province.

“After Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau’s trip to India, we saw a 100 per cent tariff imposed on our pulse exports into the country, which have remained in place. That’s the reality and we saw a very significant drop in trade over that same period of time,” Harrison said.

“I was critical of that mission because it did nothing to advance our trade interests, who are the predominant trade partner with India. It’s mainly Saskatchewan that has a trading relationship with India out of all of the jurisdictions in Canada, we have by far the largest and we were very badly hurt because of what happened during that trip.”

“So that in addition with a number of other things led us to the conclusion that we need to be assertive in making sure that our interests are represented internationally.”

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Saskatchewan exports about 67 per cent of the products it produces, according to the ministry, with total exports last year valued at approximately $31 billion.

“We have now the most export-dependent economy in the entire country,” Harrison said.

“It became very apparent over the course of the last couple of years that as dependent as we are on international trade, we need to be in these markets … we need to be looking out for our interests as a province.”

The provincial government announced on Nov. 14 it will be opening new offices in Japan, India and Singapore to increase exports, attract more investment to the province, and strengthen relationships with international partners and customers.

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During his mission from Nov. 16-23, Harrison will be making stops in New Delhi and Mumbai to meet with representatives from the Indian government and industry.

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