Sarnia plant export potential expected to grow

By Paul Morden,   from   The Observer

Canada’s new trade deal with the European Union will help Sarnia-Lambton’s chemical industries, says the vice-president of a company building a $125-million bio-succinic acid plant on Vidal Street.

There’s currently a 6.5% duty on succinic acid shipped to the European Union, said Mike Hartmann, executive vice-president of Montreal-based BioAmber.

“It will go to zero as soon as the agreement enters into force, greatly assisting our export potential,” Hartmann said.

The federal government announced last week it had reached a trade agreement with the European Union, eliminating tariffs and improving access to European markets.

BioAmber is building a plant in Sarnia expected to create 60 permanent jobs once the 30,000-tonne facility begins using sugar from corn to produce bio-succinic acid, a building-block chemical used in products ranging from automotive parts to disposable cutlery.

Company officials have said they plan to expand production to 50,000 tonnes within a year of starting up the plant. Its construction is expected to be finished by the end of 2014.

“The agreement will bring specific benefits to the chemistry industry and the next generation of bio-based chemicals and products by opening European markets,” Hartmann said.

Sarnia-Lambton MP Pat Davidson described the historic agreement as “a big win” for workers, businesses and families in southwestern Ontario.

“In some areas it will be a huge impact,” Davidson said, pointing to the reduction in tariffs for BioAmber.

“It opens just a huge, huge market for them.”

The European Union, with its population of 500 million and a GDP of $17 trillion, is Canada’s second-largest trading partner, after the U.S.

Davidson said the deal will also open up European markets for Canadian beef and pork farmers.

While it will allow more European cheese to be sold in Canada, it also opens the European market up for other Canadian milk products, she said.

“For those who are importing, and for the general public it will give access to cheaper-priced goods,” Davidson added.

“So, that is a good thing for everybody.”

George Mallay, general manager of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, said the trade deal may have more impact on agriculture than industries in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley.

“I think for the most part, people there have been largely focused on the U.S. market,” he said.

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