Marie-Claude Bibeau said her letter was sent over the weekend. The delegation would be led by the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and include plant health experts from the agency. Technical experts from the Prairie provinces will also be included in the pending–delegation,
Bibeau made the announcement during a press conference with International Trade Minister Jim Carr on Monday in the foyer of the House of Commons. The Canadian government’s request for a delegation comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week Canada was looking to send a delegation to China to discuss the trade dispute.
The requested delegation also comes after the federal agriculture minister told iPolitics on Friday that Canada had offered to send experts from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, but officials were waiting for visa approvals.
Asked Monday why the pending-delegation didn’t include either the federal agriculture minister or trade minister, Bibeau said at this point Canadian officials want to keep the discussions focused on science.
China has pulled export permits from two Canadian grain companies — Richardson International Ltd. and Viterra — after Chinese officials alleged shipments were contaminated with pests. Chinese importers have also stopped purchasing Canadian canola seed.
Canadian officials have vehemently rejected those claims, arguing they are not science-based.
The Trudeau government is also establishing a working group that includes the Canola Council of Canada, the Canola Growers Association, Richardson International Ltd. and Viterra, as well as representatives from the federal, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan governments.
Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada, told reporters on Monday he hopes the working group can start meeting this week. The working group, Bibeau said, will “explore alternative markets, both for the short-term and the long-term.” Potential solutions to growers concerns around cash-flow will also be examined.
“Resolving this issue with China is a top priority for Canada,” Bibeau said.
Over the weekend, the Chinese embassy issued a statement about the ongoing dispute, insisting China’s customs agency had flagged pest concerns to Canadian officials on four occasions: January 4, March 1, March 15 and March 26. The embassy insisted it is the “bound duty of the Chinese government to protect the safety and interests of Chinese consumers as well as China’s agricultural production and ecological security.”
Conversations between Canada and China, the embassy said, are ongoing. “The Chinese side stands ready to communicate with the Canadian side on technical matters,” the embassy said Saturday.
Two emergency committee meetings are planned for Tuesday in Ottawa to discuss the trade dispute. Officials from the Canola Council of Canada, Canola Growers Association of Canada, Richardson International Ltd., Viterra, and CFIA will appear in front of the House agriculture committee starting at 11 a.m.
Meanwhile, Bibeau and Carr are slated to appear in front of the House trade committee alongside officials from CFIA, Agriculture Canada, and Global Affairs Canada starting at 3:30 p.m.
Conservative Agriculture Critic Luc Berthold tried to request an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the canola dispute Monday. However, Liberal MPs chose to move to Orders of the Day before the request could be made.