Canada’s agricultural powerhouse, Saskatchewan, takes aim at ASEAN with new Singapore Office

The Government of Saskatchewan is intent on expanding already robust trade, investment and cultural relations in ASEAN with the establishment of a new Trade and Investment Office in Singapore. The CABC connected with Saskatchewan’s Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison to hear more about their plans for the region.

The Honourable Jeremy Harrison, Minister of Trade and Export Development

Why did the Government of Saskatchewan decide to open a Trade and Investment Office in Singapore?

The economy and quality of life in Saskatchewan are dependent on trade and, as government, we play a vital role in helping to get our products to international markets. The new Singapore Trade and Investment Office is part of Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan, a comprehensive government strategy that aims to build a stronger province now, and for the next decade.

Singapore is a natural location for the Trade and Investment Office. It’s perhaps not so well known that Saskatchewan is Canada’s leading exporter to the ASEAN region. In 2020, our exports to the region were more than CAD $1.2 billion – greater than any other Canadian province. Saskatchewan also benefits from ASEAN-based investors, including Singapore’s Agrocorp which continues to invest in value-added food processing in the province.

This is a good start, but there is more work to do in order to tap the full potential of this trading relationship. Despite the outstanding export numbers at a regional level, Indonesia is the only country in ASEAN that cracks our top ten markets. Pairing Saskatchewan’s world-class assets with Southeast Asia’s burgeoning demand presents a breadth of opportunities to grow economic partnerships between the two regions and the new office will be focused on exactly that.

What can Saskatchewan offer ASEAN countries and businesses?

Saskatchewan has the food, fuel and fertilizer the world needs. The quality and sustainability of Saskatchewan commodities and products are key advantages we’d like to highlight in the ASEAN market. As well, continued and improved access to foreign markets is critical to export growth, which is why we are expanding our international footprint to include the international trade and investment office in Singapore.

When it comes to food, Saskatchewan is often called Canada’s breadbasket, but it’s more accurate to think of the province as the world’s picnic basket. Saskatchewan is now the world’s largest exporter of many agricultural products, including lentils, dry peas, canola seed, canola oil, canola meal, oats, and durum. More and more of these products are being processed in the province and shipped globally to meet the extraordinary demand for safe and high quality plant-based protein.

With respect to fuel and energy, we’re the world’s second largest producer of uranium. We also supply the fertilizer needs of countries around the world, thanks to our status as the leading global producer of potash. For example, in 2020 Saskatchewan potash exports to Indonesia totaled $360 Million.

We’re also doing internationally recognized work to combat climate change through the carbon capture and storage projects that our power utility has undertaken. Our International CCS Knowledge Centre is looking to take that Saskatchewan-based and proven research and apply it to coal plants and projects here in Asia and elsewhere by collaborating with the Asian Development Bank, among other institutions.

Our leadership in these industries is driven by science and technology, and some of the world’s most advanced research in agriculture, biotechnology and life sciences is conducted in the province. For ASEAN companies looking to develop or acquire next generation technologies in crop development, plant-based protein, or animal genetics, among many other fields, you can’t find a better partner than Saskatchewan.

Of course, our relationship with ASEAN will continue to grow based on the ever expanding people to people ties. For example, our world-class educational institutions welcome students from around the region, and the Philippines remains a top source country for immigrants to the province. These linkages are essential building blocks for a mutually beneficial long-term partnership between Saskatchewan and Southeast Asia.

How will the office support Saskatchewan-ASEAN cooperation?

One of the challenges we face to grow the relationship is the distance between Saskatchewan and the countries of Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, a direct flight between Singapore and Saskatoon is not in the hopper just yet.

The purpose of the office is to bridge this divide and bring Saskatchewan and ASEAN closer together. By having a dedicated Government of Saskatchewan office in the region, ASEAN-based companies can readily access up-to-date information, gain connections and plan a business trip to the province. This is a valuable service if you are a prospective investor or importer, saving you considerable time and money.

For Saskatchewan businesses, the office will work closely with our partners at the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) to identify buyers for their products and services in the region. The office will also serve as the province’s eyes and ears on the ground, keeping apprised of any foreign government policies that might disrupt trade.

We also recognize that Saskatchewan is not as well-known as some other provinces in Canada, despite our impact as a global trader. The office will work with our Canadian partners in the region including the CABC, the Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, the regional Canadian Chambers of Commerce and others to ensure this changes.

What is the best way to engage with the office?

There will be many opportunities to engage with the Saskatchewan Singapore Office as it gets established this year. I encourage you to connect with Greg Eidsness, Managing Director of the new office. Greg is originally from Swift Current, a city in Southwest Saskatchewan that may be familiar to those who have driven through the province on the Trans-Canada highway. Greg previously lived in Singapore and has worked in international business development for 15 years.

I understand that one of Greg’s priorities is to build a community of Friends of Saskatchewan in the region. So, if you have ties to the province whether through birth, education or your career, or if you’re just a Saskatchewan Roughriders fan, I know he will be happy to hear from you.

Of course, I very much look forward to visiting the region again and engaging with our partners in person. In another environment, Premier Moe and I would be thrilled to visit Singapore and other ASEAN countries to officially open the office in person, however that will likely be delayed until later in 2021 or early 2022.

Where can we learn more about what Saskatchewan has to offer?

I encourage you to visit the website ThinkSask.ca to learn more about the advantages of doing business with Saskatchewan. To get in touch with the Saskatchewan Trade and Investment Office in Singapore, you can email singapore@gov.sk.ca.

Special thank you to: