By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark says expanding trade relationships with countries other than the United States is like having more than one friend to call on a lonely Saturday night.
Clark leaves Thursday on a 10-day trade mission to the Indian cities of New Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh in search of new opportunities and potential markets for British Columbia.
It’s the sixth international trade mission she’s led since 2011. China has been a major focus in the past, but she’s also made pit stops in Japan and South Korea.
Clark denied her overseas ventures are attempts to dump the Americans â€” Canada’s largest trading partnership â€” even though her Liberal government’s recent throne speech declared some U.S. markets have “dried up,” and B.C. has become the least American-dependent province in Canada.
“Here’s my view,” said Clark. “It is way better to have a lot of friends than just one friend, because on a Saturday night when you are sitting at home and you want to go to a movie, it’s great to have more than one person to call.”
She said many other Canadian provinces have the Americans as their sole customer and if the U.S. doesn’t want a product, it doesn’t get sold.
“But in B.C. we have worked really hard to develop relationships around the world, and so there are markets we can call on to export our goods,” Clark said.
She said when the U.S. housing market crashed and the demand for B.C.’s timber fell, B.C. entrepreneurs sought lumber markets in China. Similarly, she said B.C. found markets for its resources beyond U.S. borders.
Clark said her trip to India could yield benefits for B.C.
“We’ve got a lot of work to go in that market, but the example for India is China,” she said. “We had a very small market before 2005 and the government made a concerted effort through trade missions and other work to grow the market. We are now the least dependent on the American market of any province in Canada.”
She said if B.C. had not forged new Asian markets in 2008 when the U.S. economy crashed, the province would have suffered job losses.
A statement issued by the Premier’s office said India has significant untapped potential for B.C.
It said India is Asia’s third-largest economy and is projected to become one of the largest consumer markets in the world. India also has a rapidly growing middle class, said the statement.
Coal, copper, wood pulp and newsprint are B.C.’s top commodity exports to India, it added.