Canadian exporters should value China market amid pandemic

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/23 22:35:18

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

China has enhanced its inspection and quarantine of imported goods following the latest coronavirus outbreak in Beijing. An investigation at Xinfadi market found that a chopping board for imported salmon tested positive for the virus. With risks surrounding the potential contamination of food emerging, it was reasonable and necessary for China's government to impose stricter inspections to secure the health and safety of the Chinese people.

Having experienced a sharp decline in exports to China due to the pandemic, Canadian lobster exporters are now feeling even more pressure as China's customs require coronavirus-free declarations. Some lobster exporters have reportedly refused to offer such documents. Concerns about trade conflicts between the two countries have been raised.

China has become one of the biggest markets for lobsters in the past few years. In 2019, China overtook the US to become the largest market for live Canadian lobsters, per a report from Canadian media CBC. More than $450 million worth of Canadian lobsters were exported to China last year. Despite the negative impact the pandemic has had on exports, increased imports of lobsters were expected given the accelerated pace of China's economic recovery. For countries like Canada which export huge amounts of food products to China every year, a rational option would be seeking to guarantee food safety in accordance with the requirements of China's customs. That should be done through efficient communication and collaboration, helping to ensure smooth customs procedures.  

The newly adopted requirements for coronavirus-free declarations apply to all suppliers across the world and all food products. Following months of all-out efforts to combat the virus, Chinese people and businesses are recovering and many restaurants are reopening. Chinese importers and customers are cautious to import and consume imported food products given that concerns related to the potential contamination of food have increased. The measures taken by Chinese importers - requiring coronavirus-free declarations - help to ease the concerns of both importers and customers. In other words, they would indeed benefit exporters, including Canadian lobster companies, by allowing them to increase their exports to China. 

The IMF has forecasted that world economic growth will slide to negative 3 percent. Advanced economies such as Canada's are expected to contract in 2020. The IMF estimates Canada's economic growth will be negative 6.2 percent for the year. 

With China maintaining strict virus prevention measures and recovering from the coronavirus shock, its market is gradually opening to producers worldwide. Seizing the opportunities in the Chinese market will not only contribute to companies' revenues which have been hit by lockdowns, but also will help the global economy as a whole to recover. 

Increasing tensions between China and the US might be disrupting the bilateral relationship between China and Canada, but Canada needs to reconsider its policies based on its own national interests, reevaluate its bilateral economic relationship with China and re-navigate its position in a changing international context. Indeed, China and Canada have cooperative foundations on a wide range of issues. China has been Canada's second-largest importer and an important economic partner. As the lobster trade indicates, China is a huge market with great potential for many Canadian food products. Actively engaging in China's market and closely working with Chinese partners would be an efficient and effective way for Canada to walk out of the current economic recession and to maintain its economic strength in the long run.

The Canadian government will make a choice that will fundamentally serve its essential national interests. Working with China has been and will be proven a wise historical decision. It will eventually help Canada in increasing its global presence and influence at this critical historical turning point. But time never waits. A prolonged decision will only mean more opportunities lost and more uncertainties that blur the picture of bilateral cooperation.

The article was compiled based on an interview with Pan Xiaoming, a research fellow at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.


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