A new provincial strategy targeting three countries as new markets for B.C. goods and services is getting the thumbs up from the BC Chamber of Commerce.
The new Trade Diversification Strategy singles out Mexico, Vietnam and Taiwan as valuable new markets and spells out steps to support private business in accessing them.
B.C. is set to open Trade and Investment Representative offices in Taiwan and Mexico, which follows the opening of an office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s capital, in April 2022.
Forestry Innovation Investment, a Crown agency, also opened an office in the Vietnamese province of Binh Duong to promote wood products from B.C. in one of the world’s largest maker of wood furniture. FII also operates offices in mainland China and India.
Chamber CEO Fiona Famulak said it’s an important step to help local industry grow, with the chamber noting government plays a “critical role” in creating and nurturing trade relationships that help businesses showcase products and services to the world.
They range from B.C.’s “wealth of natural resources” including LNG and critical minerals to the products and services of the agrifood and agritech sectors as well as the forestry sector and information and communications technology sector.
Jobs Minister Brenda Bailey said helping B.C. businesses reach international markets creates more well-paid jobs and economic growth.
“By expanding our trade relationships and promoting B.C.’s innovative, sustainable products and services to the world, we are continuing our work to support businesses and people in all regions of our province,” she said.
Taiwan, one of the world’s leading trading hubs and key suppliers of high technology, represents a key market for B.C.
In 2017, exports to Taiwan totalled $721.1 million, according to Trade and Investment British Columbia. By 2021, exports had reached $2.1 billion with the proviso that B.C. imports far more from Taiwan than it exports. Overall, Taiwan is B.C.’s fifth-most important destination for goods and services.
Vietnam, by contrast, plays a far less significant role, ranking 25th as a destination market. Exports to Vietnam did not even crack $100 million in 2021, with imports from that country around $2.4 billion.
Mexico ranks just ahead of Vietnam as a B.C. export market, but offers the advantage of already having formal trading institutions and mechanisms through the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), the successor to NAFTA and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership between Canada and Mexico.
A member of the G20 with almost 133 million people, Mexico is also a top tourist destination for British Columbians and a source of agricultural labour.
Overall, the United States is B.C.’s largest trading partner, receiving almost 58 per cent of provincial exports in 2022, followed by mainland China with 13.1 per cent, Japan with 9.3 per cent and South Korea with 6.3 per cent.