Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, is confident that a free trade agreement with Japan would mean more jobs and increased exports and investment for British Columbia.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda announced that the two countries would enter into free trade negotiations.
"Our government is committed to expanding and diversifying our markets, creating jobs at home and strengthening our relationships abroad. We already do an extraordinary amount of trade with Japan, exporting $4.7 billion in 2011," said Bell. "We know that formal free trade agreements exponentially increase trade, grow our economy and create jobs."
Japan is B.C.'s third-largest trading partner and the third-biggest economy in the world. Goods shipped from British Columbia to Japan rose by 12 per cent last year.
Overall, B.C. has enjoyed phenomenal success in Asia, and exports to the key markets identified in 'Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan' - China, Japan, India and South Korea - rose 23.3 per cent in 2011 over the previous year. However, even greater potential exists for further growth in these markets.
"This could be an ideal free trade agreement as it's completely complementary," said Bell. "We produce the products that they don't, and they produce the products that we need."
A free trade agreement could see B.C. exports to Japan rise to between $5.6 billion and $7.5 billion annually. The federal government estimates a potential 60 per cent increase in Canadian exports to Japan, which would boost activity at B.C.'s ports and spur infrastructural development. B.C. boasts North America's closest gateways to the Japanese market.
Bell added that the launch of a joint study to explore a free trade agreement between Canada and Thailand, announced earlier in the Prime Minister's trip, was a positive step in expanding trade with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
B.C.'s top exports to Japan:
- Mineral products: $1.2 billion
- Wood products: $915 million
- Pulp and paper: $243 million
- Agricultural products: $143 million
- Coal: $1.9 billion
Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan: www.BCJobsPlan.ca
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation