by Neil CORBETT and Kevin MILLS
A tired George Peary returned last week from leading a 10-day (May 10-19) agricultural trade mission to China.
Joining the mayor on the hectic trip were 20 representatives from the community including agri-professionals, members of the chamber of commerce, UFV personnel, and Jay Teichroeb and Ken Baerg, two economic development office staff members.
“It was really quite amazing,” said Peary upon his return.
The trip was a hectic tour of businesses and farms.
“One farm produces more eggs than all of B.C.,” said Peary.
He said the trip is a first step in creating more trade with China, which is B.C.’s second largest trading partner, after the U.S.
“There may be some investment opportunities ... at least now people are attuned to what’s out there.”
And investors in China now know more about Abbotsford.
Peary said many contacts were made.
“There are wealthy individuals who want to do business in Canada ... anxious to invest,” he said.
A presentation will be given to council in the coming weeks, but rather than having Peary present it, some of the local businesses will express their views of the trade mission.
One businessman in the Abbotsford delegation was Vern Siemens of Mt. Lehman Wineries.
“The trip far surpassed my expectations,” he said.
He is still working to find markets in China for his Pioneer Red and Pinot Noir Reserve, but Seimens is already working on a deal with a supplier of wine crates.
He said the trip was an eye-opener to the opportunities that exist, but he expects more trips would be necessary to cement business arrangements. He is corresponding with new contacts via email.
“Where it will lead, it’s hard to tell.”
He said the Chinese have a positive reaction to Canadians, and the members of the delegation only reaffirmed their impressions.
“We were ambassadors,” he said. “I think they’ll be coming this way as well.”
One of the leaders of the delegation was John de Jonge of Artex Cow Barn Solutions. An international company that does 40 per cent of its business in dairy barn construction in China, de Jonge operates a sales and administration office in Beijing and a manufacturing facility in Tianjin. From there, he ships products to Europe and across the globe.
Did he see the trip as worthwhile for the delegation?
“The mayor was very clear – we have to go there with a purpose,” he said. “We spent a lot of effort making sure we were seeing the right people.”
“There is clearly a massive opportunity to bring high-end products into China.”
Funds from B.C.’s Asia-Pacific Initiative ($16,000) covered the cost of sending Peary and city staff. However, the city provided about $30,000 from its economic development budget to cover other costs including organization, networking and presentations.
Chamber executive director David D. Hull said the business people involved were exposed to a country that is massive in its population size and pace of development, set in an entrepreneurial society where “everybody is doing business.
“The opportunities in China are enormous. You can’t appreciate it until you get there,” he said.
“What will come of it is what they make of it.”
Some of the local businesses represented on the trade mission included The Nutriva Group and Rossdown Farms, as well as delegates from the University of the Fraser Valley and Tourism Abbotsford.