PM worries China could target more Canadian goods as fears about soybeans rise

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s worried an ongoing diplomatic dispute could see China target imports of other Canadian agricultural products as concerns grow about soybean shipments in particular.

One industry leader said Thursday that, without a clear explanation, Canadian soybean exports to China plunged suddenly from 3.2 million tons over the final four months of 2018 to just 3,700 tons through the first four months of this year.

Relations between Canada and China have deteriorated since the December arrest in Vancouver of Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States.

China was outraged by Meng’s arrest and has since detained two Canadians on allegations of espionage and sentenced two other Canadians to death for drug-related convictions.

Chinese authorities have also blocked imports of Canadian canola seeds, alleging they found pests in shipments, and have increased inspections and paperwork related to pork.

“When it comes to China, obviously, our top concern is the release of Canadians who are detained in an arbitrary way by the Chinese for political reasons,” Trudeau said in French on Thursday during a visit to France, where he marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day. “We are also concerned by their actions on canola and the potential of other actions on other products.”

Trudeau told reporters that he will see if it’s “appropriate or desirable” to have a conversation directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping about a number of bilateral difficulties later this month at the G20 summit in Japan.

Later Thursday, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau told a parliamentary committee that she’s heard concerns about shipments of Canadian soybeans to China.

Ron Davidson, executive director of Soy Canada, said in an interview that China’s purchases of Canadian soybeans collapsed at the end of last year following a run of very strong exports.

“It’s not a slowdown — it’s a virtual halt,” said Davidson, whose members have reported the drop to Bibeau. “We can see what’s happening, but we aren’t certain why.”

He said it’s not unusual to see soybean exports decrease during winter months, but the speed, magnitude and timing of the crash this time around has alarmed the industry.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Justice Film Festival returns this week for 12th year

A collection of films focusing on different global issues will be screened… Continue reading

Women of Excellence nominations close next week

The deadline for the 2020 Women of Excellence Gala is only a… Continue reading

Canada prepares as WHO decides whether to declare global coronavirus emergency

Canadian public health agencies are ramping up preparations to deal with the… Continue reading

New virus could trigger travel sector woes akin to damage from SARS in 2003

MONTREAL — A deadly new virus that emerged in China is raising… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

CFL to stage Toronto-Saskatchewan regular-season contest in Halifax

The CFL is returning to Halifax. A CFL source says the league… Continue reading

Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris closes in on White’s X Games medal record

Mark McMorris is on the verge of Winter X Games history. Winning… Continue reading

Aerosmith drummer loses bid to rejoin band for Grammy honours

BOSTON — A judge has told Aerosmith’s drummer Joey Kramer to dream… Continue reading

Canadian superstars Shawn Mendes and Drake among nominees at the Grammys

TORONTO — From Shawn Mendes to Drake, the line-up of Canadian nominees… Continue reading

Gardening: Purchase seeds that fit your values and budget

Spring is only a few months away and it is time to… Continue reading

Ottawa pledges to match funds raised for families of Iran plane crash victims

TORONTO — The federal government promised Wednesday to match all contributions to… Continue reading

Union fined for violating court order in Regina refinery labour dispute

REGINA — A judge has fined a union that represents more than… Continue reading

Most Read