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AFN’s Atleo and First Nations Leaders on Trade Trip to China

Canadian First Nations are building business relationships with the Chinese

Several First Nations leaders and aboriginal business proponents will spend 10 days in China discussing business opportunities with the growing Asian nation.

"First Nations recognize the growing importance of Asian markets, and the opportunity to seek out a competitive advantage to expand economic opportunities for First Nations and all of Canada," stated Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), who is part of the trade delegation, in a media release on October 21. "First Nations have innovative plans for community-based sustainable economic development and we are reaching out to partners nationally and internationally for opportunities that work for our peoples and communities."

From October 21 to 31, Atleo and a group of First Nations leaders and business people will explore economic-development partnership opportunities with Chinese government officials and Chinese businesses, the statement said. The trip builds on previous trips to China made by British Columbia chiefs in May and August.

The AFN has been working closely with several First Nations, the release said, particularly the British Columbia First Nations Energy and Mining Council. The AFN and British Columbia First Nations officials also worked with the Embassy for the Peoples Republic of China, the Canadian government and its consulate office in Beijing. The delegation will be hosted by the Friendship Association for Foreign Countries of China, the release stated.

Atleo is joined by AFN Yukon Regional Chief Eric Morris, as well as First Nation government and business leaders from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, among others. They are looking at this trade mission as a jumping-off point for trips to other countries to develop international interest in trade and investment directly with First Nation communities. This is part of the AFN's mandate, the statement said, and in fulfilling it, the AFN hosted the Ambassador of China, who addressed the chiefs during the 2010 Special Chiefs Assembly and again at the 2011 International Indigenous Summit on Energy and Mining in Niagara Falls in June.

"This official visit to China is a mission of encouraging exchange and trade opportunities," said AFN Yukon Regional Chief Eric Morris, who is also in charge of economic partnerships for the organization. "First Nations are not opposed to development that is sustainable and environmentally responsible. In fact, we welcome the opportunity to work with governments and industry from the outset based on the principles of free, prior and informed consent as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)."

More information on First Nations–China business ties is at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, in pdfs of an October 20 article and an August report. And here, some details of the trade mission's goals and itinerary.