OTTAWA, ON - When West Nova Member of Parliament Colin Fraser talks about China, it’s with some measure of excitement. It’s all about culture, tourism, friendships, trust, and economic benefit on both sides.
The Canada brand is strong and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has completed two official visits to the world’s most populous country to build relationships with the Chinese. His last trip was in early December.
“I think the more we can continue to build on the ties that we’re making on all levels - municipal, provincial, and federal - is a positive thing,” said Fraser. “The Canada brand, I think, is really strong internationally right now, including in China, so I know the prime minister was well received and some good discussions happened.”
It’s early days, said Fraser, and building agreements take time. But he’s hopeful.
“It takes time to get to a point where you can enter into the sort of formal discussions about free trade agreements or whatever,” said Fraser. “But every effort is being made to build those ties and to encourage foreign investment into Canada, but also to show the Chinese our products.”
When Trudeau visited in December, there was a photo of him with a lobster.
“That’s really valuable for our area in particular,” Fraser said. “They came up with a deal on beef and pork products - a reduction on the tariffs on those to open up new markets. So the agricultural and fisheries sectors, in particular, are really going to benefit from increased trade ties to China.”
There are schools in China that use Nova Scotia’s school curriculum and later send those graduates to Nova Scotia universities. Five middle school students from the Overseas Immersion Program of Suqian Suzhou Foreign Language School are in Bridgetown this week and more Chinese students will be coming to the area soon.
Fraser likes the idea of having more international students at universities in Nova Scotia.
“I know the Premier (Stephen McNeil) is working hard on it, and the federal government, too – to break down barriers, to retain international students,” said Fraser. “That’s going to be really a big deal for Atlantic Canada to retain the best and brightest from around the world at home for us. I think it’s a great opportunity for these young people. I think that’s part of the whole package that we really need to focus on.”
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Fraser believes that China’s emerging economy can help grow West Nova’s traditional primary industries, like farming and fishing.
“There is no question about it,” he said. “We put into force in 2017 a European trade deal that opened up a brand new market of 500 million people with no tariffs. We’ve already started to see the economic benefit of that in West Nova – eight per cent reduction in tariffs off lobsters, new markets for agricultural products.”
Now the new Trans-Pacific Partnership has been reached.
“So every time we have an ability to wisely open up new trade markets for our Canadian products, our area’s going to win because we have the best seafood in the world and we have amazing agriculture products that are in demand right now worldwide,” Fraser said.
“I honestly think it’s an amazing opportunity and I think we’re just starting on this path towards building really strong relationships with an emerging market (China) that is going to be really important for our country in the future,” he said. “I think, in West Nova, we’ve really done a good job, at all levels, of building those personal relationships that will really make a big difference in attracting investment, attracting tourists, but also opening up a cultural dialogue that I think is really helpful for all of our people.”
He said business people from West Nova have gone over to China and, in turn, have received business people from that country.
“I think the groundwork is being laid very wisely and I think, on a nation-to-nation basis, Canada’s brand is really strong right now and so everything the national government can do in China is helpful too,” the MP said.
Fraser believes it’s about more than trade. Nova Scotia resonates with the Chinese.
Having cultural exchanges and opportunities for tourists to come to West Nova and Nova Scotia, in general, is “really fantastic,” he adds.
“The engagement that we’re having – cities and municipalities both in China and West Nova - I think is invaluable,” Fraser said. “The more we work, all together, the better off we’re going to be.”
He points out that the Chinese tourism market is the fastest growing tourism segment in the world.
“I think it was up over 10 per cent last year and I’d really like to see tourism increased in West Nova as a result of that.”
Fraser sees the potential for those who come as tourists to return as businesspeople.
“I think that’s it. I think it has to be a whole approach where you’re building these ties and connections and the people get to know each other and like each other and are fascinated with their histories,” said Fraser.
“We have an amazing history in West Nova, and all the founding peoples of Canada are in our region. It’s amazing to see the bonds that are being strengthened between ourselves and a place so far away that is intrigued with our history but also in the Canada brand itself.”
Fraser believes China can play a big and positive role in Canada’s future. In West Nova’s future.
“I think there is a wonderful opportunity to continue to forge those relationships and I think that investment does come over time when you’ve got trust and affection for each other,” he said. “And I think those are things that are being built up right now that will pay dividends in the long term.”