By Teresa Wat
Minister of International Trade
British Columbia is a natural gateway to Asia for trade and investment. Our province's ports are closer than are any in the U.S., and our competitive business environment, diverse and skilled workforce and quality of life makes B.C. an ideal place to do business. These competitive advantages allow us to compete and thrive in our priority markets in the Asia-Pacific.
One of these priority markets is South Korea. We believe improving the province's trade, economic and government-to-government relations with our Korean partners is vital to economic growth and job creation here in B.C. We have operated a Trade and Investment Representative Office in Seoul since 2008, with on-the-ground experts focused on advancing trade and investment opportunities between British Columbia and South Korea.
Last fall, Premier Christy Clark led her second trade mission to South Korea to deepen our relationships by meeting with high-level decision-makers and advancing our efforts to develop our liquefied natural gas sector. Our efforts are paying off. Today, Korea is Canada's seventh-largest trading partner — and British Columbia's fourth largest, with over 50 per cent of Canada's exports to Korea originating here in British Columbia
Despite taking these concrete steps to attract and secure trade for our exporters and service providers, our efforts are being undermined as a result of delays in securing a Canada-South Korea free trade agreement. South Korea has signed free trade agreements with many of our key competitors — the European Union, the United States and Australia — putting British Columbia at a significant disadvantage and eroding our market share.
Our government is urging Canada to work quickly to conclude this long-overdue free trade agreement. This trade agreement will not only benefit British Columbians, but every province throughout Canada.
We are working closely with the federal government to ensure that British Columbia's interests and objectives are well represented in negotiations with Korea. For our province, it is particularly important to establish clear, predictable and secure access for economic relations with our Asian trade and investment partners. And also to ensure that local producers and businesses have access to the Korean market on the same terms as our competitors.
A concluded Canada-South Korea Free Trade Agreement must provide clear advantages for British Columbians doing business in this key market. It must provide local exporters with improved, real market access opportunities, especially in the forestry, natural gas, seafood and agri-foods sectors.
British Columbia also supports the Government of Canada's efforts to conclude trade agreements with partners such as Japan, India, and the member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These trade agreements are vital to all sectors of our provincial and national economies and ensuring that barriers to our exporters of goods and services are reduced through such trade negotiations. We hope the federal government will work diligently to secure trade agreements in these priority markets.
British Columbia depends on trade and investment for economic growth and job creation. With our competitive advantages, we strongly believe that on a level playing field, we will be competitive in South Korea and throughout the Asia Pacific, benefiting British Columbians and all Canadians as we continue to diversify our international trade and open new markets for our businesses, workers and investors.