MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA — Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland expressed her confidence in the quality of the nation’s canola and said the government is working to gather information on China’s blockage of some shipments.

“I have tremendous confidence in the quality of the canola,” Freeland said during the Canadian Crops Convention in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on March 6. “I think it’s important for us to gather as much information as we can before drawing conclusions.”

China canceled Richardson International’s registration to ship canola, according to documents dated March 1. China’s foreign ministry said on March 6 it took that action due to fear of insect infestation.

Freeland said the Canadian government is aware of the importance of the Chinese market to Canada’s agriculture industry. About 40% of Canada’s canola exports go to China, according to the Canola Council of Canada.

“I realize there are some significant challenges today, and we are working very hard on that,” she said. “I’ve spoken to some of our top CEOs of commodities companies and we are going to be working closely together. We are prepared to work through this. I really want to say this is something that we need to tackle together, and we will.”

Freeland also addressed other trade issues during her talk, highlighting the progress Canada has made with trade agreements, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), formerly NAFTA.

“We are the only G7 country that has a trade deal with every other G7 country,” Freeland said. “My job is to help our fantastic farmers and all of you who work with them to find markets for all the fantastic food we grow in Canada.”

That’s not easy, she said, given that the world is in one of its most protectionist environments since the Great Depression.

“For a trading nation like Canada, that means real challenges,” she said. “We are too small of a country to do well just selling to each other. I think Canadians really get that, that is one of the reasons why that at a time when others are questioning the value of free trade, there is strong public support for it.”

In addition to China’s latest move on canola, Canada has faced other non-tariff trade barriers in the recent past that are counter to the trade agreements. Durum exports to Italy virtually stopped in 2018 because of the nation’s country-of-origin labeling requirements and exports of pulses to India dropped in 2017 after disputes over pest treatment options.

Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada, asked Freeland what she would say to farmers and exporters who supported trade agreements but are facing non-tariff trade barriers that prevent market access.

 “We just have to be prepared and have tremendous resilience when it comes to the fact that there are going to be constant, specific irritants around the world,” she said. “We have to respond to them efficiently and very energetically on each case-by-case basis.

“I predict there will be more such irritants in places we never even thought of, and we just have to keep on working at it.”