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Chinese government launches 'Belt and Road' warehouse in Surrey

The consul general of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver extolled how the warehouses could be instrumental in expanding trade between the two countries
A rendering from 2018 shows a warehouse and trade centre that recently opened in Surrey.

A massive logistics facility in Surrey officially opened last month, paving the way for more trade between B.C. and China.

The Vancouver Logistics Park, which opened on July 28, was originally dubbed the “World Commodity Trade Center” and was billed as a massive $190-million, 470,000-square-foot complex. 

Today, the sprawling import-export facility is only about 80,000 square feet as only the first of three phases is complete.

The business park, first conceived in Beijing, was to have four warehouses and two large exhibition halls — to be lined with Chinese and Canadian flags, although the final version appears to have been altered and is without flags and with the new name. It’s unclear what the final size of the complex will be.

The business park is purported to be one of several non-Chinese import-export facilities servicing a central commodities hub on the outskirts of Beijing, called Yanjiao International Trade City. It's being developed by World Commerce Valley, a division of Hong Kong-based trading firm Shing Kee Godown Group.

The local industrial park was developed by North America Commerce Valley, a subsidiary of World Commerce Valley.

What is the Belt and Road Initiative?

When ground broke in 2018, the facility followed a trailblazing memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) between then Premier Christy Clark and former B.C. Minister of Trade Teresa Wat’s B.C. government and the Chinese province of Guangdong — the province thus became North America's only jurisdiction to sanction China's global foreign investment initiative.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a concept credited to China’s president Xi Jinping, one which is aimed at forming a global trade network similar to Silk Road initiatives.

In June, U.S. President Joe Biden and other democratic nations committed to a $600-billion plan to counter these investments, which are largely taking place in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. 

The National Post reported on June 29 that it is “unclear” if Canada will commit to the plan.

Industrial park benefits both countries, says consul general

According to Dawa News, Tong Xiaoling, the consul general of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver, extolled how the warehouses could be instrumental in expanding trade between the two countries and, therefore, easing the cost of living for B.C. residents. 

The warehouses could be instrumental in shipping Canadian food and other resources to the Chinese but has raised national security concerns granted the direct involvement of the Chinese Communist Party.

B.C. Minister of Trade George Chow, who was in attendance for the opening, also spoke about the potential benefits of the industrial park, according to Dawa News. 

Chow has not responded to Glacier Media's request for comment.

The BC NDP government let the BRI MOU expire in May 2021 and also did not respond to Glacier Media’s request for comment about whether it still supports the initiative. 

Ceremony dubbed ‘Warehouse Logistics Alliance’

The ceremony, which was dubbed the “Warehouse Logistics Alliance,” was reportedly meant to promote resource sharing and “expand the coverage of the logistics network,” according to Liu Hong, chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, of China’s Ministry of Commerce.

Appearing to help organize the alliance was the Canada International Trade Promotion Society.

The ceremony was well attended by representatives from a number of organizations, such as the Vancouver Chinese Benevolent Association, the Canadian Community Service Association, the Federation of Guangdong Associations of Canada, Canadian Hehe Culture Research Association and the Canadian Cultural and Creative Industries Foundation.

Also present for the open ceremony was Wei Renmin, chairman of the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations — a Richmond-based umbrella group sanctioned by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.

The Chinese Affairs Office is a Beijing-based entity within the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department that promotes China’s interests abroad and gathers intelligence on overseas Chinese nationals and ethnic Chinese Canadians.

Business representatives at the ceremony included COSCO Shipping, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Shunfeng Express Canada and Manna Industrial Property.