B.C. joins lineup at China’s door

Premier Christy Clark and senior B.C. cabinet ministers are seeing plenty of competition as they visit China this week.

Premier Christy Clark meets performers during her trade mission to China this week.

Premier Christy Clark and senior B.C. cabinet ministers are seeing plenty of competition as they visit China this week in search of trade deals.

Clark is taking part in B.C.’s largest-ever trade mission to Asia, trying to expand on B.C.’s recent success developing the lumber market in China. And whether the product is liquefied natural gas, lumber or tourism, there are many other countries doing the same.

“Competition is stiff,” Clark said in a conference call Monday from Shanghai. “The world is in turmoil, and everybody’s coming to China.”

Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell is a veteran of these trade trips, most focused on using wood for housing construction. Bell says the forest CEOs on the trip are still expecting continued growth of Chinese demand each month, but nowhere near the doubling of sales that was seen over the last year.

“There is significant lumber available over here already, and that’s presenting the softer market that we’re seeing,” Bell said.

Deals announced after four days of the trade mission include an agreement for a touring show of photos from B.C.’s gold rush town of Barkerville. The exhibit focuses on migrants from Guangdong province to Barkerville during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The exhibit will be on display in Prince George before it opens at the Hong Kong Museum of History in early 2013. Its tour should attract more tourists from the Chinese province where most immigrants have historically come to B.C.

Bell said the biggest business deal announced on the trip so far is Sichuan Airlines starting three flights a week to Vancouver next year. It translates to 37,000 passenger seats a year, and is the airline’s first destination in North America.

Clark defended the political component of the tour, saying business executives can’t crack the Chinese market without government representation alongside. The current delegation includes delegates from 130 companies, schools and other organizations.

Clark is continuing on to India after the China portion of the trip. Bell goes to Hong Kong and Forests Minister Steve Thomson goes from China to Japan.

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