Fi­nance min­is­ter em­pha­sizes China’s key eco­nomic role

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By EDDY LOK and NA LI in Toronto

In the global econ­omy, Canada re­mains a small mar­ket to some, but its eco­nomic sig­nif­i­cance is an­other story.

Cur­rent eco­nomic trends and new for­eign ini­tia­tives sug­gest a more ag­gres­sive global em­brace by Canada and a fresh ap­proach in en­gag­ing China, par­tic­u­larly on trade re­la­tions, which were ap­proach­ing frosty in the past.

At The Econ­o­mist’s 2016 Canada Sum­mit on Wed­nes­day, with low oil and com­modi­ties prices and a dip in in­vest­ment hov­er­ing over the meet­ing, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Wil­liam Morneau re­in­forced the im­por­tance of China to the Cana­dian econ­omy. He said that the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is tak­ing steps to en­hance trade re­la­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Morneau, after the United States, Canada’s next largest trad­ing part­ner is China, which has be­come a top for­eign pol­icy pri­or­ity for the rel­a­tively new gov­ern­ment, now grap­pling with eco­nomic is­sues and chal­lenges de­spite Canada’s wealth of nat­u­ral re­sources, qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for Chi­nese stu­dents, high-tech in­dus­tries for en­trepreneurs, tourism, and its ap­peal as an im­mi­grant des­ti­na­tion.

Morneau said the gov­ern­ment is fo­cus­ing on in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and eco­nomic growth.

“We are still open to ne­go­ti­at­ing with China about the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank,” he said.

As for the prop­erty mar­ket, Joseph Lake, the di­rec­tor of global fore­cast­ing at The Econ­o­mist in­tel­li­gence unit, said there has been no mar­ket crash in Canada, un­like prop­erty fore­clo­sures in the US.

“Cana­dian con­sumers can­not bear too much of a bur­den, but so far, the re­silience of the Cana­dian econ­omy helps. De­spite plung­ing in­vest­ments, cheaper Cana­dian cur­rency should help in ex­ports, even with a Chi­nese eco­nomic slow­down,” Lake said.

Jean Boivin of the Black­rock In­vest­ment In­sti­tute said there had been big changes in the last six months.

“We see some sta­bil­ity. China’s sit­u­a­tion is sta­bi­lized, too,” Boivin said. “There were fears of a liq­uid­ity trap. There has been slow growth in coun­tries like Ja­pan. There is a real ques­tion of what poli­cies can do in a real slow­down.”

Paul Frazer, for­mer Cana­dian en­voy, said Canada and China should have open re­la­tions and learn from each other, not­ing that the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment wants to es­tab­lish its own ap­proach with Bei­jing.

“If you en­gage in a more ro­bust re­la­tion­ship, ev­ery­thing is on the ta­ble, then we can get to a sit­u­a­tion … such as by hav­ing di­a­logues, that can deal with trade is­sues and a wide range of eco­nomic is­sues as well as international is­sues,” he said.

Other speak­ers talked about look­ing at Chi­nese in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy, the need to at­tract Chi­nese in­vest­ment, ac­cess to Chi­nese mar­kets for for­eign in­vestors, and the po­ten­tial hous­ing bub­ble and other eco­nomic malaise in Canada.

Vishnu Prakash, In­dia’s high com­mis­sioner to Canada, said Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau had in­structed his min­is­ters to de­velop and ex­pand re­la­tions with China and In­dia, es­pe­cially on trade and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion.

Murad Al Katib of AGT Food and In­gre­di­ents said Canada could not ig­nore In­dia and China.

“Five years and 10 years from now, we are fo­cus­ing on coun­tries with spring­board po­ten­tial like Tur­key, Viet­nam and In­done­sia. Cana­dian com­pa­nies need to do more than ex­port (and) forge strate­gic part­ner­ships, like on a sub­con­tract­ing ba­sis,” he said.

NA LI / CHINA DAILY

Bill Morneau (right), Cana­dian fi­nance min­is­ter, talks with Matthew Bishop, se­nior ed­i­tor of The Econ­o­mist Group, at The Econ­o­mist’s 2016 Canada Sum­mit on Wed­nes­day in Toronto.

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