Finance minister emphasizes China’s key economic role
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.
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.