Prairie farmers pay high price for Cold War with China

By David Gehl 

According to a recently released report from the Canola Council of Canada, worsened relations with China since the December 2018 arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou have cost prairie farmers a billion or more dollars. During the period March 6, 2019 to July 31, 2020 the losses to Canadian canola growers are estimated at from $681 million to $1.3 billion in lost sales and lower prices.

Canola is Canada’s most valuable crop. Its sales are dependent on export markets of which China was the largest before 2019. The value of Canadian canola seed exports to China in 2018 was $2.8 billion. After the arrest of Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 canola sales to China dropped to $800 million in 2019 and to $1.4 billion in 2020. The area planted to canola in 2019 was about 21 million acres so the lost revenues from canola sales to China equate to $32.40 – $61.90 per acre, a significant loss.

Clearly, China’s decision to find alternatives to Canadian canola was a reaction to the Trudeau/Freeland government’s detention of Ms. Wanzhou. In this case the economic interests of Canadian farmers were sacrificed to appease the US government. It should be noted that by provoking a Chinese response against Canada the Americans achieved two objectives: 1) severely damaging Canada-China diplomatic relations and 2) creating a market opportunity for American soybeans which China purchased to replace Canadian canola. By playing to the American tune the Government of Canada acted against the interests of its own citizens.

This shows that a foreign policy of subservience to Washington is often contrary to Canadian interests. This can be contrasted to the policies of Diefenbaker government in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. At that time Canada was among the first Western countries to establish commercial relations with the People’s Republic of China by selling Canadian wheat. The Canadian Wheat Board arranged the sale of wheat to China on condition of a $100 million line of credit from the Government of Canada. How times have changed! From being a leader in opening relations with the PRC, Canada has become a leader in destroying them.

Servility to American diktat has a price. It is high time for Canada to adopt an independent foreign policy free from the “rules” set down by Washington.

[Photo: Canola Council of Canada]

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