May 10 (UPI) -- Industry leaders from Alberta met their Chinese counterparts as Canada looks to diversify its energy mix with an Asian footprint, officials said.
Alberta Trade Minister Deron Bilous and Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum hosted Chinese representatives to explore the possibility for expanded trade opportunities.
"Trade missions are critical to continue building confidence and credibility in international markets, and we are proud of the attention our local businesses are attracting from Shandong and other Asian markets," Bilous said in a statement.
The visit by Chinese delegates with Bilous follows his recent tour of Asia alongside Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and comes about two months after the Canadian government issued a public call to weigh in on the possibilities of reaching a free-trade agreement with China. Canada's trade with China would translate to economic expansion and job growth at home, the government said.
An overview of the state of trade in Canada said the national economy "did not follow the script" for a developed economy starting in 2015 as the impact of lower oil prices had broad implications given the size of the Canadian energy industry and associated economic sectors.
Many of the export metrics trended lower for Canada in 2015 and unemployment that year rose to 7.1 percent. Alberta is at the center of the Canadian oil and gas industry and relies heavily on the United States as an export market.
A recent report from analysis group IHS Markit that found regulatory delays for pipeline infrastructure and pledges from U.S. President Donald Trump to review North American trade agreements create uncertainties for the Canadian economy. Executive action taken by Trump aims to drive economic stimulus through domestic priorities.
The Canadian envoy said better trade relations with China would be an important buffer for the broader economy.
"Now is the time to act," he said. "By leveraging opportunities in key sectors like renewable energy, forestry, agriculture and tourism, we can support jobs and prosperity for more Canadians."