Alberta and China have signed what they term a landmark deal to increase trade ties and collaboration.

Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes says the framework on sustainable energy development gives Alberta direct access to decision-makers and strategists at the highest levels in China.

Hughes, who spoke to reporters from Beijing, said the deal's importance was highlighted by the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Canadian Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

He says the deal is a critical step toward increasing trade with China.


Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes is on a trade promotion trip to Asia. (CBC)

"It is the single most important market Alberta will have for the next 50 years."

The minister says what he is hearing from leaders in China makes it even more imperative to get a direct line for Alberta crude oil to the Pacific coast.

Canadian energy producers on the trade mission are also hailing the agreement.

Gordon Holden, chief operating officer of Calgary-based Surmont Energy, says new markets will increase the price for Alberta oil.

"It doesn't matter where our crude goes, but if Canada and Alberta has more access to more markets — especially tide water markets like Asia — that will help improve our price locally, no matter where we sell our crude so it's very important," he said.

Holden says his company is also looking to China for capital investment to help develop its oilsands lease.

"We are looking elsewhere too, but our perception is there are pools of capital available in China we might access to invest in our project."

The non-binding intergovernmental agreement is said to be the first of its kind between China and a Canadian province.

During his current trip to Asia, Hughes is meeting with officials in Korea, China and Japan to work on expanding markets for Alberta resources.

With files from CBC News