On Monday this week, the House of Commons resumed sitting following the Christmas break. My thanks to everyone who took the time and effort to share their opinions and suggestions with me at many events I attended and at our Crowfoot Constituency Satellite Office Days in Oyen, Hanna, Stettler and Strathmore.
One year ago, I was dispatched by our government to spend eight days in Japan. I followed an agenda the Japanese government prepared that included many meetings with top government officials, including their Ministry of Agriculture. I visited Japan’s Agriculture & Livestock Industries Corporation; met with the Co-Chair of Japan’s “Canada Committee”; and, the President of the Japan Business Federation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had already toured Thailand, Japan and Korea in pursuit of increasing Canada’s business in the Asia-Pacific region. He secured the formal launch of free trade negotiations with Japan – the world’s third-largest economy. It could increase our nation’s GDP between $3 and $9 billion. Canada’s bilateral trade last year with Japan amounted to almost $24 billion.
I was alone on this mission to Japan. The Hon. Gerry Ritz, Canada’s Agriculture Minister, and the Hon. Ed Fast, Canada’s International Trade Minister were already working closely with their Japanese counterparts and other officials and made sure I was ‘tooled up’ to try and pry the door open for Alberta beef exports. You can imagine the countless times I use the words “Alberta beef” in my conversations with everyone I met. I knew the stakes were high because Japan’s need for agriculture products meant that there will be a net benefit right here in our riding of Crowfoot
On Monday this week during Question Period, I asked: “Mr. Speaker, Canadian farmers appreciate our Conservative government’s hard work to create jobs and economic growth for our agricultural industry. They understand our government’s commitment to bolstering trade and opening markets for our top quality products. Since forming government, we have consistently made representations to Japan seeking expanded access for Canadian beef derived from animals under 30 months of age. Could the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food please update the House on the status of these negotiations?”
The Hon. Gerry Ritz answered: “Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Crowfoot for his dedication on this file. I am pleased to announce today that Japan has expanded access and is now accepting Canadian beef from animals under 30 months of age. This is expected to double the value of Canadian exports by some $150 million annually. Unlike the anti-trade NDP, our government continues to open up markets to provide opportunities for our producers.”
This is great news as it takes us beyond Japan’s current beef imports of animals under 21 months of age. Japan is Canada’s third largest export market for beef. The revised regulations will come into effect February 1, 2013.
Minister Ritz was purposely ‘political’ in his answer – criticizing the Official Opposition because they oppose virtually every effort our Conservative government makes to boost trade opportunities for Canada. This increase in Canadian beef exports to Japan is more proof that these efforts are getting results. We look forward to taking our trading relationship with Japan and other nations to the next level to continue providing additional export opportunities for Canadian businesses.