Harper talks trade in Chilliwack

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Chilliwack on Wednesday touring IMW Industries.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets employees while on a tour of IMW Industries on Wednesday in Chilliwack.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets employees while on a tour of IMW Industries on Wednesday in Chilliwack.

A Chilliwack manufacturer was the site of round-table trade talks Wednesday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, community and business leaders.

The photo-op was geared to showcasing Canada’s first trade deal in the Asia Pacific region – the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

“Particular benefits for B.C.” are expected to accrue from the signing of this latest free trade agreement, he noted.

“It’s our first ever in the Asia Pacific region, and obviously therefore an important gateway in terms of our trading strategy into that entire region,” said Harper.

The PM was flanked by Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, who hosted the round table discussion, and IMW Industries president Brian Nguyen.

The low-key trade-related discussions were held on the factory floor of IMW in Chilliwack, where their CNG compressors and fueling equipment are typically built by IMW workers.

The goal of the event was to chat about recent trade developments, such as the upshot of the agreement, and ways to boost investment between Canada and Korea.

“Thank you for hosting us. We had a great tour of what is a dynamic and growing local company,” Harper said about IMW Industries, before the round-table started.

The IMW president said the local company was “honoured” to have the PM and his entourage visit the Chilliwack site of the busy global export company. He didn’t know exactly why IMW was chosen for a tour and photo-op, but said they were happy to accept the offer.

“Free trade agreements are very important to us,” said IMW president Nguyen after the talks.

“When tariffs and taxes are removed, it makes us a lot more competitive. We can grow our business as a result.”

Rising demand for CNG equipment worldwide has led the IMW workforce to be doubled in size, said Nguyen, going from about 150 employees a couple of years ago, to 300 IMW workers in Canada. They are also planning to enter the related world of LNG, liquid natural gas equipment, some time in the near future.

IMW is a wholly owned subsidiary of Clean Energy Fuels, manufacturing gas compressors, dispensers, storage systems, and control systems. IMW systems are designed for public, truck and fleet fueling stations and more.

Korea is considered a key market for the Harper government.

“I am pleased to have been here today with Canadian businesses to discuss the ways our country can benefit from the new trade and investment opportunities this historic agreement will provide,” said Harper. “ I would also like to thank our businesspeople for their valuable input, which helped to inform negotiations.”

The two countries announced the end of negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement in March 2014 and are working through the steps. Once implemented, it will immediately bring substantial benefits to Canadian consumers, exporters, producers and investors across all regions.

The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement is projected to boost Canada’s economy by $1.7 billion and increase Canadian merchandise exports to Korea by 32 per cent.