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China Daily Global / 2020-10 / 16 / Page006

Reset sought in Canada for China ties

By RENA LI in Toronto | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-10-16 00:00

Half century of bilateral relations sees businesses push for smoother course

In 1970, Canada's then prime minister Pierre Trudeau made a bold move among Western countries by establishing diplomatic relations with China. On Tuesday, the two nations marked the 50th anniversary of that historic occasion. The Trudeau name remains in the frame. This time, with his son Justin Trudeau as Canada's leader.

In recent years, Sino-Canadian relations have become increasingly volatile and subject to various attempts to redefine the nature of the relationship.

Ties between the two countries deteriorated in December 2018, after Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, on a US extradition warrant.

The tense bilateral relations and the COVID-19 pandemic have curtailed business development and put the business community in a tough spot.

Canada has emerged from months of lockdown, and with China's economy recovering more quickly, the business community in Canada is trying to look ahead toward opportunities for future economic engagement.

During an event in Beijing celebrating the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations, Canadian businesses urged greater ties, backed by calls for Canada to end the Meng extradition case and improve trade relations.

Members of the group told The Globe and Mail that they "very much want to see these legal cases resolved", said Olivier Desmarais, chair of the Canada China Business Council and vice-president of Power Corp, one of Canada's most influential companies.

He said that the group sees "China as a place of long-term growth and an immediate salve to the pain of the pandemic".

Important market

While Canada's worldwide exports fell 16.7 percent in the first seven months of the year, exports to China rose 2.2 percent. Canadian brands such as Tim Hortons, Lululemon, Canada Goose and Arc'teryx have been expanding their businesses in China.

"The Chinese market is incredibly important to Canadian jobs," with salaries that "depend on a strong continued relationship", Desmarais told the media.

Companies such as Canada Goose that have played a leading role in expanding and nurturing business relationships were also honored and encouraged to promote more trade and investment between Canada and China.

Wendy Dobson, a professor emerita at the University of Toronto and former Canadian associate deputy minister of finance, proposes an expansion in economic engagement in her book Living with China: A Middle Power Finds Its Way.

"In the broader strategic context, what stands out of the significant complementarities between Canada and China provides a strong case for trade and investment," Dobson said at a Canada-China economic forum hosted by the Jack Austin Centre on Tuesday. "China seeks secure supplies of agrifood, energy and natural resources, which Canada has in abundance. For its part, Canada seeks secure demand and the investment camp of capital to develop those resources."

Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu called for Canada's Chinese community to uphold mutual respect for win-win cooperation.

He noted that the trade in goods between China and Canada was worth only $150 million in 1970 but had soared to $74 billion by 2019.

"The current China-Canada relations are in a rather difficult period,"Cong said. "I believe that as long as we uphold mutual respect for win-win cooperation, China-Canada economic and trade relations will surely achieve healthy and stable development."

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