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Alberta officials need to focus on trade relationships: experts

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WATCH: Federal trade experts spoke Thursday with the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs about how Alberta's agriculture and agrifood sector could position Canada to expand trade in coming years. As Emily Olsen reports, they say much of this will rely on forming government relationships through the province – Jan 7, 2021

Alberta pulls its weight in Canada’s agricultural trade — over 17 per cent of exports, according to the Canada West Foundation — and has been touted as a viable route for economic recovery post-pandemic.

Director of the Trade and Investment Centre, Carlo Dade, develops and leads research to promote growth and profitability in western Canada’s export economy. 

Read more: Southern Alberta canola farmers reap benefits of indirect trade deals

He says the instability of trade with the United States under the Trump administration is a relief to leave behind, but familiar challenges will return.

“But the caution with that is it takes us back to where we were before, which is where you don’t have the 2 a.m. Tweet [from the president;, you just have the run-of-the-mill tariff threats, country-of-origin labelling and other issues that we’ve always had with the Americans.”

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Click to play video: 'How the U.S.- Canada trade war on tariffs is eroding our economic relationship' How the U.S.- Canada trade war on tariffs is eroding our economic relationship
How the U.S.- Canada trade war on tariffs is eroding our economic relationship – Jul 4, 2018

A key factor in improving this will be for Alberta’s provincial leaders to work on forming stronger ties with the United States, Dale said. 

“We really need to step up engagement, do what folks in the Cascadia Corridor — British Columbia and Washington — are doing, do what folks in the Council of Great Lakes region are doing.

“And that is involvement by heads of government directly, strategically and long-term with their counterparts. This hasn’t been the case in Western Canada.”

Global News reached out to Alberta Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen for comment but was told he wasn’t available on Thursday.

Read more: Canadian barley farmers see price advantage due to China-Australia trade tensions

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Trade Policy Economist for the Canada West Foundation, Sharon Sun, says another key to unlocking Canada’s agriculture trade potential is further diversification from major partners like China and the U.S.

“There’s a lot of opportunities with Japan — which one of our recent reports have identified specific, sectoral agricultural opportunities between Canada and Japan — as well as other markets such as Vietnam.”

Read more: Alberta producers feeling stress from China’s canola ban

She says despite China being on track to become more technologically self-sufficient, its desire to increase food security positions Canada well to continue trade growth now with more diversified southern Alberta crops like wheat and peas.

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