Businesses Urged to Capitalize on Asian Growth

resources | BCBusiness
Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson

Conference delegates hear that Asian economies far surpass growth rates of B.C.’s traditional export markets, but government and business must act fast to capitalize on the window of opportunity

The future of B.C. trade lies across the Pacific Ocean, but the time to seize the opportunity is now. That’s the message shared and hammered home by business leaders and government officials who gathered at the Business Council of B.C.’s B.C. Business Summit at the Vancouver Convention Centre Wednesday. The two-day summit featured Premier Christy Clark, federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney, and leaders of some of B.C.’s biggest corporations.
There’s little debate about why the province is looking to Asia to expand its exports. The province’s biggest trading partner, the U.S., grew its economy by 2.2 per cent in 2012. China, in a relatively slow year for the giant, grew its economy by 7.8 per cent in 2012. Other Asian countries, such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Mongolia each grew their respective GDPs by more than six per cent last year.
“The American market is not growing,” Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson told the summit attendees. The problem, he and other summit speakers emphasized, is that B.C.’s competitors are vying to seize the same opportunities.
“The growth market is Asia. That window of opportunity is not going to be open forever,” Anderson warned. “By the end of this decade, if we miss the opportunity to increase that trade and market access for oil and gas to China, others will fill it.”
Growing trade with Asia requires massive development of infrastructure to move goods to and through B.C.’s ports—the kind of development that can cause conflicts and friction with local communities. “An unprecedented $9 billion is being invested right now by industry, and all levels of government,” said Port Metro Vancouver vice-chair Marcella Szel. The port has pushed hard to bring the public onside. “We had 600 community meetings last year,” she said.
B.C.’s growth should not come at the expense of the environment, safety, or other important values, Anderson said, but regulators need to be wary not to let their prudence turn into fear and lack of action.
“I think we need to get past a singular debate about what can go wrong, and convert it to what can go right,” he said. “We have natural resources in this country that the world wants.”