By Premier Christy Clark
VICTORIA - Most people experience their government via the services they depend on: schools, highways, and hospitals. For the most part, these services are free - and very expensive to maintain, much less make new investments in.
With the global economy still reeling, and with a growing, ageing population at home, the only way to afford these services is to grow the economy - and that's exactly what British Columbians have asked us to do.
A major component of our plan to do that is increasing trade, chiefly with the emerging economies of Asia.
Because of our proximity and natural advantages, we've had great success in expanding those trade relationships.
One of our priority markets is South Korea. British Columbia has maintained a Trade and Investment Representative Office in Seoul since 2008, and I led a trade mission there last November. Make no mistake - we've had successes. South Korea is Canada's seventh-largest trading partner and British Columbia's fourth. But while our exports to China and Japan have been setting records, our lumber exports to South Korea have actually declined over the past three years.
That's because we haven't been on a level playing field. Our competitors in the United States, Australia and the European Union have free trade agreements with South Korea - and they have been capitalizing on the opportunities created. The Government of Canada has estimated that a free trade agreement between our two countries could increase exports to South Korea by 32%, or $1.7 billion. Keep in mind, over 50% of Canada's exports originate from British Columbia.
Last week, we got some great news when Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally signed the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA.) For some time, our government has been urging Ottawa to conclude this long-overdue agreement.
The CKFTA will eliminate tariffs on B.C. exports to South Korea, providing clear advantages for B.C. companies doing business there. Of course, they will have to do their homework on the Korean market but thanks to this free trade agreement, B.C. exporters will be more competitive and have improved, real market access opportunities, especially in forestry, natural gas, seafood and agri-foods.
This agreement covers a variety of aspects of Canada-South Korean trade, including trade in goods and services, investment, government procurement, non-tariff barriers, environment and labour co-operation, and other areas of economic activity.
British Columbia depends on trade and investment for economic growth, job creation, and the ability to afford the services families depend on. Our competitive advantages bring home a lot of opportunities - but now that we have a level playing field in the South Korean market, the sky's the limit.
Office of the Premier