Trudeau aims at China trade
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced plans to make a big push for inbound investment to Canada by leading trade missions to China and India, probably in March.
The Globe and Mail reports that it is all part of a carefully laid out strategy with the long term goal of following Australia’s lead and landing a free-trade agreement with China.
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is reportedly part of the discussions.
“We are looking very closely at how Australia built their relationship, and we’re talking to leading figures from that period about how we can do something appropriate like that in Canada,” said a senior government official, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
Under Australia’s pact with China, more than 85 percent of Australian goods will enter China duty-free.
The odds of reaching a similar arrangement are seen to be in Canada’s favor, for one reason, because the Trudeau name is held in such high esteem in China. Justin Trudeau’s father and former Prime Minister Pierre-Elliott Trudeau visited China three times.
“We have a unique opportunity, given the high regard in which the Prime Minister’s father is held in China,” the official said. “It isn’t hyperbole. They still look at Pierre Trudeau as the first Western leader to open his arms to China, which, in a society that treats history the way it does, is as if it happened yesterday.”
High-level Canadian officials have already initiated talks with business leaders who have ties with China, the Globe and Mail reports.
The details of the mission are still being worked out but sources say they could include provincial premiers and corporate executives.
Canada’s previous Conservative administration had a strained relationship with China over accusations of Chinese spying in Canada and China’s treatment of Tibetans.
Demand in China for Canadian natural resources has slowed with the nation’s economy and the China Investment Corp, which handles $747 billion, also recently closed its Toronto headquarters.
However, official said the focus of the trade mission would be on China’s and India’s rapidly rising middle class and fast-paced urbanization.
“Nobody is building cities as rapidly as China,” the official said. “So there are big opportunities for our pension funds, for our financial institutions, for our large infrastructure companies and for green technology.”
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to Beijing, told the Globe and Mail that there are enormous possibilities to capitalize on China’s growing middle- and upper- income earners who are travelling more, sending their children overseas for education and buying real estate abroad.
The Chinese also have high regard for Canada’s food safety, making it possible for Canadian firms to market fruit juices, wines and lobster, while also promoting healthcare services targeting the elderly, he said.
“The challenge is not just to show up and say we are friends and let’s get back to business,” Mulroney said. “You need to institutionalize the relationship with regular visits and exchanges.”