Trade deal with China may help aboriginal fishers here

Blog, Trade, Joseph Quesnel

Canada is considering entering into a free trade agreement with China. Of course, there are issues surrounding that, including corruption, foreign takeovers and the rule of law generally. There is always the problem of China’s human rights record, which is a separate matter.

But, stronger trade links with China could help struggling commercial fishermen, mainly aboriginal, in the Prairie provinces, esp. if the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation (FFMC) monopoly is removed.

Commercial freshwater fishermen from Manitoba, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories must market their fish through the corporation. The problem is the return on fish species located in northern reaches has been declining over the last decade due to higher energy prices, currency fluctuations and other factors.

There is evidence fishermen could get a better return on their own fish as they are modern and sophisticated businesspeople who have access to the Internet and other marketing tools.

Where does China fit in in all this? Well, as a strong emerging economy, the level of protein consumption is going up in China, as well as other emerging Asian economies. The demand for fish and other seafood is going up and Chinese customers like the “rough fish” species that don’t sell as well here.

Unshackled by government monopolies, Prairie fishermen, most of whom are from less affluent First Nation and Metis communities, can take advantage of stronger ties with China and other emerging economies.