Trudeau heading to China to talk trade
OTTAWA -- Trade and human rights are among the topics Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intends to raise during a visit to China next month.
Trudeau's office finalized details on Sunday of the trip, which will take place between Dec. 3 to Dec. 7.
A statement from the Prime Minister's Office says Trudeau will promote a progressive trade agenda and tourism initiatives.
The Trudeau government has been wrestling in recent months with whether to launch talks on reaching a free trade agreement with China.
Sunday's statement made no mention of free trade and government officials have said no decision has been made on whether to pursue such negotiations.
But even if Canada and China pursue and ultimately finalize a free trade agreement, one economist warns it likely won’t offset the fallout if NAFTA is terminated.
“I think we have to be realistic in terms of how much a deal with China down the road could offset frustrated trade with the U.S. and perhaps Mexico,” Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Financial Group, told BNN in an interview Monday.
“[A deal] isn’t going to offset fully whatever damage we could see from the termination of NAFTA with trade with the U.S.”
But still, Porter said it’s “very important to keep the conversation open” and “to explore other possibilities with other economies” even though he stressed any potential deal would take years to complete.
When it comes to U.S. President Donald Trump’s reaction to a cozier Canada-China relationship, it’s largely unpredictable, according to Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council.
“The thing is it’s hard to predict how the president would react on any given day at any given moment to any given story,” she told BNN in an interview Monday.
“I think he respects the desire to have relations with China…although he wants to have every relationship, every bilateral relationship with the United States, molded in his interest. And that’s just not something that Canada or others are willing to bow to.”
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The Canadian government recently consulted with businesses, academics and civil society groups and a report of the talks warned that such a deal could kill Canadian jobs and make it difficult to compete with China's lax labour and environmental standards.
"A strong relationship with China is essential to creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, and growing the Canadian economy," Trudeau said in Sunday's statement. "I look forward to meeting again with China's leaders to strengthen our relationship and set the stage for even greater trade and investment co-operation."
The statement also said Canada intends to continue frank dialogue with China on topics like human rights and good governance.
Trudeau is to start his visit in Beijing where he is to meet a number of Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping. He is scheduled to move on to the city of Guangzhou where he'll give the keynote speech at a global business conference and meet with various business leaders about trade and investment.
Trudeau made his first official visit to China last year.
China is Canada's second biggest trading partner. Canada's exports to China totalled nearly $21 billion in merchandise last year.
-- With files from BNN