Progress made with China in trade talks

En­vi­ron­ment won’t be deal breaker, min­is­ter says

Waterloo Region Record - - EDITORIALS & COMMENT -

OT­TAWA — En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna says Canada and China have made good progress on en­vi­ron­men­tal laws and reg­u­la­tions that are among the bar­ri­ers to launch­ing of­fi­cial free trade talks.

McKenna is in China this week as part of Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s trade mis­sion, as well as for meet­ings of her own aimed largely at con­nect­ing Cana­dian clean tech com­pa­nies with Chi­nese en­ter­prises.

Trudeau left China on Thurs­day with­out of­fi­cially launch­ing the for­mal free trade talks the two coun­tries have been work­ing toward, cit­ing is­sues such as gen­der, the en­vi­ron­ment and labour among the stick­ing points.

Some Cana­dian busi­nesses fear less-strin­gent Chi­nese reg­u­la­tions and laws could make it harder for them to com­pete in a free trade en­vi­ron­ment.

McKenna said Canada has made clear the en­vi­ron­ment is one of its key is­sues ahead of launch­ing for­mal free trade talks with China, but she doesn’t think it will be a deal breaker.

“I think that is an area we’ve made very good progress over the past few years,” she said.

“I think that’s one area where I think we have a lot of com­mon ground and I think we can cer­tainly build on that should we en­ter into for­mal trade ne­go­ti­a­tions. I think both Canada and China see that as a win-win.”

McKenna be­lieves China is firmly com­mit­ted to com­bat­ing cli­mate change and im­prov­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, point­ing to things like its com­mit­ment to the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, its re­cent de­vel­op­ment of a na­tional emis­sions mar­ket for car­bon­heavy in­dus­tries, and even its kick­ing off a Chi­nese na­tional parks sys­tem.

She says there are two min­is­te­rial-level dis­cus­sions start­ing up be­tween Canada and China, on cli­mate change and clean tech­nol­ogy growth.

In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty pro­tec­tions will be among the is­sues crit­i­cal for Cana­dian clean tech com­pa­nies and are some­thing she says a free-trade agree­ment could help pro­tect.

How­ever she noted there are Cana­dian com­pa­nies al­ready op­er­at­ing in China with con­fi­dence, point­ing specif­i­cally to Bal­lard Power, a Bri­tish Columbia-based fuel cell man­u­fac­turer which has an agree­ment with a Chi­nese com­pany.

McKenna said one of her roles is to help con­nect clean tech com­pa­nies from Canada with the Chi­nese mar­ket, not­ing it can of­ten take gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance be­cause busi­nesses in China look­ing for Cana­dian tech­nol­ogy are sta­te­owned.

How a free-trade agree­ment would man­age the mul­ti­tude of state-owned en­ter­prises in China is also one of the bar­ri­ers to a free-trade agree­ment with the world’s most pop­u­lous nation.

Canada is align­ing it­self with China and the Euro­pean Union, hop­ing to be seen as the world’s lead­ers on en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to cli­mate change.

The three are try­ing to help fill the void left by the United States and the cli­mate change-skep­ti­cism of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

But Canada’s in­ter­na­tional cli­mate diplo­macy was dealt a blow this week when its cli­mate change am­bas­sador had to re­sign her post fol­low­ing a fam­ily tragedy.

Jen­nifer MacIn­tyre was only ap­pointed to the job in June, as­signed to help McKenna lead Canada’s in­ter­na­tional push on cli­mate change policy.

But in Oc­to­ber, her hus­band sud­denly died, which led to MacIn­tyre’s de­ci­sion to step away from the high-pro­file and travel-heavy role so she could be with her two young daugh­ters.

“I’m dev­as­tated for her per­son­ally,” McKenna said.

“She was an ex­cel­lent cli­mate am­bas­sador.”

She said the gov­ern­ment will look for some­one else to fill the role.

“That role is crit­i­cally im­por­tant be­cause Canada is seen as a leader on cli­mate ac­tion,” said McKenna.

“We be­lieve that we need to be show­ing lead­er­ship, es­pe­cially right now, if the U.S. is go­ing to step back, Canada is go­ing to need to step up more.”

COLIN PERKEL, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna says China is firmly com­mit­ted to com­bat­ing cli­mate change.

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