4th mission abroad in 3 months: “We have to reoccupy the ground”, says Martine Biron

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4 th  mission abroad in 3 months : “ We need to reoccupy the ground”, says Martine Biron

Quebec Premier François Legault speaks with his Minister of International Affairs, Martine Biron, in Djerba, Tunisia. (File photo)

Quebec is solidifying its ties with its American, European and African partners, as it reviews its strategy in the Indo-Pacific region in referring to potential changes in China.

This is what the Minister of International Relations, Martine Biron, explained during a recent telephone conversation with the time to complete a mission in Belgium.

The hyperactive minister would then fly to Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire to carry out a fourth mission in three months, after New York, Djerba and Brussels.

The pandemic is pretty much behind us, business is picking up and it's the right time for Quebec to […] resume its diplomatic relations, she said.

The relationship with China, cooled, is however the subject of reflection, she added, evoking for the first time a scenario that would see Quebec close offices in China.

Quebec has four representations in China: in Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao and Shenzhen. China ranks second among Quebec's export markets, behind the United States.

Last November, Prime Minister François Legault brushed aside the idea of ​​doing like his predecessors and going to the Middle Kingdom himself. It's not planned for now, he said.

Leaving China is a decision we have to make with a clear head, Ms. Biron said in an interview. When we close an office, it is difficult to reopen it, because it taints our diplomatic relations.

The least we can do is consult our partners and realign our business in a sustainable way.

Let's keep in mind that we've been in China for 40 years. You still have to be careful. There are Quebecers who live in China. So, we must not rush things, she continued.

There are several scenarios that we study and the reflection is not completed . For the moment, we are not leaving China. We are reviewing our ways of doing things in the Indo-Pacific region.

This region of the globe includes 40 countries, including China, India, Japan, Cambodia and Thailand.

The federal government of Justin Trudeau began last fall a decoupling with China, which he describes as a disruptive power, in order to get rid of trade dependence on Beijing.

“We need to do more business together”, says Legault to the countries of La Francophonie

Quebec smells good business in Africa, a continent set to explode demographically, recalls Martine Biron, who sees a market to develop there.

For example, between 2017 and 2021, trade Trade between Quebec and Senegal grew by 369%, according to data from his ministry. In 2021, they amounted to $152 million.

More broadly, the countries of La Francophonie represent a market of 1.2 billion inhabitants. At the last Francophonie Summit, the Legault government invited them to show solidarity in business.

We feel that there is a buzz on the ground so that business and diplomatic relations resumed, says Ms. Biron. Quebec must be part of this international effervescence and increase its trade.

To do this, it intends to consolidate what we have in Africa and put a lot of energy in Europe and the United States, where it is important to nurture our relationships.

François Legault presents his team, interview with Martine Biron

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