PM: Trade an an­swer to pop­ulism

Trudeau char­ac­ter­izes trade ambitions with China as part of Canada’s fight against pro­tec­tion­ist tide

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - MIKE BLANCH­FIELD

BEI­JING — Pur­su­ing free trade with China and pre­serv­ing the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment are part of Canada’s in­ter­na­tional mis­sion to com­bat the ris­ing tide of pop­ulism, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said Tues­day.

Trudeau capped the first leg of his China trip in Bei­jing on Tues­day meet­ing the coun­try’s pow­er­ful pres­i­dent as talks con­tin­ued to for­mally kick­start free trade ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the two coun­tries.

Xi Jin­ping wel­comed Trudeau with a hand­shake at a red and gold glit­ter­ing guest­house nes­tled in a man­i­cured com­pound with ponds and wa­ter­falls.

He noted the prime min­is­ter had been hav­ing busy and pro­duc­tive meet­ings in Bei­jing.

“I know that as we look to building a bet­ter fu­ture for the en­tire world the friend­ship be­tween Canada and China will play an im­por­tant role in set­ting the tone and the ap­proach that will char­ac­ter­ize the 21st cen­tury,” Trudeau replied.

The prime min­is­ter re­mained hope­ful that Canada and China could forge ahead with a fullfledged trade deal that he said would ben­e­fit work­ing peo­ple in both coun­tries.

Trudeau char­ac­ter­ized his trade ambitions with China, NAFTA and pur­su­ing other deals in Asia, in­clud­ing a new ver­sion of Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, as part of Canada’s fight against the pro­tec­tion­ist tide most closely as­so­ci­ated with the Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in Washington.

“It’s a time where there is much po­lit­i­cal space given up in var­i­ous coun­tries for pop­ulism or resur­gent na­tion­al­ism. And Canada stands strongly as a coun­try that is mak­ing a case for in­ter­na­tional trade that ben­e­fits ev­ery­one. We will con­tinue to do that,” he told re­porters be­fore his meet­ing with Xi.

Canada’s tough NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tion was a big part of his din­ner con­ver­sa­tion Mon­day night with Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang, said Trudeau.

“We take very se­ri­ously the responsibility we have to im­prove NAFTA to ben­e­fit both Canada, the United States and Mex­ico,” Trudeau said.

“Canada is not in the busi­ness of try­ing to cre­ate a zero sum game or cre­ate win­ners or losers in trade deals.”

After his Bei­jing meet­ing with Xi, Trudeau flew south to the city of Guangzhou for the For­tune Global Fo­rum, a ma­jor con­fer­ence of in­ter­na­tional busi­ness lead­ers.

Trudeau said he would not hes­i­tate to raise hu­man rights con­cerns with Xi, who has be­come China’s most pow­er­ful leader in decades.

“The na­ture of the very strong and con­struc­tive re­la­tion­ship be­tween Canada and China right now means that we can have strong and frank dis­cus­sions about issues that we see dif­fer­ently with­out en­dan­ger­ing the pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship we have,” Trudeau said.

He said he has raised spe­cific con­sular cases, and the in­abil­ity of Cana­dian diplo­mats to visit some Cana­di­ans in prison.

The meet­ing with Xi fol­lows Trudeau’s talks on Mon­day with Li, where they were not able to an­nounce the start of for­mal free trade talks that would move be­yond the cur­rent phase of ex­ploratory dis­cus­sions.

In­ter­na­tional Trade Min­is­ter Fran­cois-Philippe Champagne was no­tice­ably ab­sent from at least two pub­lic events that three fel­low cabi­net min­is­ters at­tended with Trudeau on Tues­day be­cause he was con­tin­u­ing the trade talks with Chi­nese coun­ter­parts.

Champagne stayed be­hind in Bei­jing in­stead of trav­el­ling with the Trudeau en­tourage to Guangzhou. His spokesman had boarded the prime min­is­ter’s plane and sud­denly left while the air­craft was idling on the tar­mac and at least two of Champagne’s aides were pulled off the plane at the last minute.

Trudeau said there wasn’t one par­tic­u­lar is­sue that held up move­ment to the next phase but he wants a pro­gres­sive trade deal that in­cludes ad­dress­ing issues such as gen­der, the en­vi­ron­ment and labour.

Trudeau touted the lower-level agree­ments the two coun­tries inked Mon­day on en­ergy and the en­vi­ron­ment, agri­cul­ture and ed­u­ca­tion as ways of in­cre­men­tally mov­ing re­la­tions for­ward as part of his new an­nual lead­ers’ di­a­logue.

“Whether there are for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions or sim­ply ex­ploratory talks, we are con­stantly en­gaged with our Chi­nese coun­ter­parts.”

The Cana­dian Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion said the agree­ment reached Mon­day could gen­er­ate $125 mil­lion in new beef ex­ports to China in the next five years, while the ex­ploratory free trade talks con­tinue.

“We know that they’re work­ing on it. Things haven’t stopped,” John Mass­wohl, the as­so­ci­a­tion’s in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions di­rec­tor, told re­porters in Bei­jing.

China im­poses a 12-per cent tar­iff on Cana­dian beef, while Aus­tralia faces a seven-per cent tar­iff that is grad­u­ally be­ing phased out through their free trade agree­ment with China, he said.

The agri­cul­ture sec­tor’s en­thu­si­asm for free trade with China con­trasts with some other 600 busi­nesses, academics and civil so­ci­ety groups who took part in gov­ern­ment con­sul­ta­tions.

Some ex­pressed fears that a free trade pact with China could kill Cana­dian jobs and re­duce their abil­ity to com­pete against China’s lax labour stan­dards, lower en­vi­ron­men­tal re­quire­ments and state sub­si­dies.


Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, cen­tre, speaks to the me­dia at a ho­tel in Bei­jing, China, on Tues­day.

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