NIIGATA, JAPAN – Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is in Japan attending the first-ever Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Agricultural Meeting working to strengthen trade relationships and expand market opportunities for Canadian farmers and ranchers.

While in Asia, Ritz is holding bilateral meetings with agriculture leaders from China, Mexico and South Korea. He, together with provincial representatives from Canada's New West Partnership, met with his Japanese counterpart Michihiko Kano and raised Canada's long-standing request for greater access for Canadian beef. They also sat down with Japanese industry to discuss how to better help get Canadian products in the hands of Japanese consumers.

"We're working at every level — provincial, federal and industry — to make sure countries like Japan and South Korea trade based on sound science and that our hard working beef producers achieve the full market access they deserve," Ritz said.

Canada and Indonesia also signed an agreement to improve agriculture cooperation and focus on removing trade barriers to various Canadian products including goat and sheep livestock and genetics, among other things. Indonesia will enlist Canada's animal-health expertise to help build testing capacity in order to maintain a healthy cattle sector.

Ritz also made a stopover in Hong Kong to follow-up Canada's recovery of full-market access for Canadian beef last December. He met with industry and was pleased to report that Canada's beef exports to Hong Kong have significantly exceeded expectations. The Canadian Beef Export Federation originally expected the market to grow to $65 million (US$64 million), but it is now expected to be worth more than $105 million (US$104 million) for Canadian producers in 2010, a growth of 67% since full-market access was achieved.