PM Harper vis­it­ing China

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York paulwelitzkin@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Eco­nomic, se­cu­rity and the fate of a cur­rency trad­ing cen­ter are ex­pected to dom­i­nate sched­uled talks be­tween Cana­dian Prime Min­ster Stephen Harper and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

Harper, who left for China on Nov 5, is in China for a five-day trip, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from the of­fice of the prime min­is­ter. The first two days he led a Cana­dian business del­e­ga­tion to Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince be­fore trav­el­ing to Beijing and the meet­ing with Xi. Later he is set to at­tend the open­ing ses­sion of the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) Eco­nomic Lead­ers’ Meet­ing on Nov 10 in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal.

Harper will leave early to re­turn to Ot­tawa in time for Tues­day’s Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­monies at the Na­tional War Memo­rial.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s trip to China — his third since tak­ing of­fice — is an op­por­tu­nity to strengthen the long­stand­ing ties be­tween Canada and China and set the di­rec­tion for Canada’s fu­ture en­deav­ours with the coun­try, said the press re­lease.

There is spec­u­la­tion that the trip may pro­duce an an­nounce­ment that Toronto has been se­lected as the first North Amer­i­can off­shore clear­ing and set­tle­ment cen­ter for the Chi­nese ren­minibi or yuan. Van­cou­ver and Toronto have been com­pet­ing to be­come a pri­mary trad­ing cen­ter for the Chi­nese cur­rency.

Hong Kong, Taipei, and Sin­ga­pore are cur­rency hubs. London and Frankfurt will soon join them after agree­ments be­tween the cen­tral banks of China, Ger­many and the UK were an­nounced ear­lier this year. Ad­van­tages of be­com­ing a clear­ing and set­tle­ment cen­ter in­clude re­duc­ing cur­rency ex­change costs for Cana­dian com­pa­nies. They could con­vert Cana­dian dol­lars di­rectly into yuan in­stead of hav­ing to pay fees to first con­vert the funds into US dol­lars. The cur­rency hub is also ex­pected to gen­er­ate jobs and in­crease for­eign trade and in­vest­ment in the city that is se­lected.

“This would be very im­por­tant for Canada as there are costs Cana­dian busi­nesses in­cur in ex­chang­ing cur­ren­cies. Toronto is our bank­ing cen­ter and one of the lead­ing fi­nan­cial cen­ters of the world so it would be a log­i­cal lo­ca­tion for the cen­ter,” said Gor­don Houlden, di­rec­tor of the China In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of Al­berta in an in­ter­view.

Trade and in­vest­ment con­cerns are also likely to be ad­dressed in the Harper-Xi talks.

“Canada would like bet­ter ac­cess to the Chi­nese mar­ket to ad­dress the 3 to 1 trade im­bal­ance be­tween the coun­tries. China would also like more as­sur­ances that Chi­nese State firms will have ma­jor in­vest­ments in Cana­dian nat­u­ral re­sources and in­fra­struc­ture re­viewed and ap­proved by the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment in a timely fash­ion,” said Charles Bur­ton, a for­mer Cana­dian diplo­mat who served in China and is now a pro­fes­sor at Brock Univer­sity in St. Catharines, On­tario.

“Canada has re­ceived large in­vest­ments from the Chi­nese in the en­ergy sec­tor and I think the in­vest­ments will con­tinue as China needs to di­ver­sify its en­ergy sources,” Houlden said.

“I’m a be­liever that per­sonal re­la­tion­ships are im­por­tant and the fact that the prime min­is­ter and the Chi­nese pres­i­dent will be seen to­gether will send a pow­er­ful sig­nal. And that the meet­ing will come on the eve of the APEC sum­mit will also help con­vey ad­di­tional sig­nif­i­cance,” added Houlden.

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