Brad Wall to promote Sask. agriculture in China and South Korea

Premier Wall to leave for 11 days on trade mission to South Korea and China to promote Sask agriculture

Wall's visit will be first by Sask. premier to South Korea

Premier Brad Wall will embark on an 11 day journey to China and South Korea to promote Sask. agriculture (Dann McKenzie/SRC)

Premier Brad Wall will leave Saturday on a trade mission to China and South Korea to champion Saskatchewan's agricultural strengths in food, fuel and fertilizer.

The mission will last 11 days. It will be the premier's third visit to China but the first visit of any Sask. premier to South Korea.

Wall will meet with various government officials and business moguls during the trek.

The premier will participate in more than 10 meetings over those 11 days.

"We're trying to attract jobs back to the province in investment," he said.

Provincial government representatives have travelled to around 11 countries since 2007, in what the premier calls an "aggressive approach" to diversify Saskatchewan's export markets away from a US-centric focus. 

Export expansion and growth

"We really need to be focused, as an economy and a government, on opportunities that exist, especially in Asia," Wall said.

Focus on that part of the world has emphasized supporting Sask. exporters in expanding sales, Wall said.

"There has been great success."

Exports to China have doubled in the last five years to $3.36B. Wall mentioned exports to India were up 180 per cent since 2008.

Uranium sales have opened up to both India and China during that time as well with the help of the previous NDP government, Wall added.

Saskatchewan has overtaken Ontario as the number one food exporting province in Canada, Wall said.

"I don't think we should be complacent about the relationship, especially in Asia," he said. 

Opposition concerns

Opposition MLA Carla Beck, who was at the legislature building for Wall's announcement, has expressed some concerns about the trade mission.

Beck said the premier needs to keep in mind the interests of Saskatchewan and ensure natural resources remain in the hands of Sask. people. 

"There is a lot that's going on in the province right now and I think he'll have to talk about the reasons for the timing of this trade deal," she added.

New opportunities

A free-trade deal was signed with South Korea by the previous Canadian government which the premier said he sees as a major opportunity to expand other agricultural commodities.

Wall will talk with South Korean officials primarily about uranium and agricultural exports. 

Wall said the free-trade agreement has leveled the playing field when competing with countries like Australia that have traditionally dominated Asian markets due to trade agreements.

These agreements are crucial, Wall says. The Sask Party will continue to encourage the federal government to develop more trade agreements in the future. 

"I congratulate the prime minister for being in China recently and raising the canola issue," Wall said. 

The Asia focus will be helpful to not just Saskatchewan but Canada as a whole, he said. 

Cost of the mission

The cost of the trade mission for the taxpayers will be roughly $130,000, Wall said.

He will be joined by various other Sask. institutions such as the Universities of Saskatchewan and Regina, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers among others.

The organizations will be paying their own way across the pond and taxpayers will not be on the hook, Wall added.