Canada PM Trudeau aims to boost trade on China trip

Ottawa (AFP) –


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will travel to China next week to bolster trade ties as North American continental trade talks fizzle.

During the December 3-7 official visit, Trudeau "will promote a progressive trade agenda and tourism initiatives," said his office.

He will meet with government and business leaders as part of Canada's concerted push to diversify its trade, most of which is currently with its neighbor the United States.

"A strong relationship with China is essential to creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, and growing the Canadian economy," Trudeau said in a statement.

He said he also plans to have full and frank discussions on "issues like good governance, human rights, and the rule of law."

The visit to China will be Trudeau's second since he came to power two years ago, and comes as trilateral talks with the United States and Mexico to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement appear to be headed toward a deadlock.

Canada and Mexico are staunchly opposed to US proposals for a NAFTA sunset clause, minimum US content in car parts and nixing of the pact's trade dispute mechanism.

The US has adopted a more protectionist tone under President Donald Trump and his "America First" policy.

Beijing, meanwhile, has openly courted increased trade with Canada, including calling for a free trade deal.

China is currently Canada's second-largest trading partner, far behind the United States, with bilateral trade of more than Can$85 billion (US$67 billion).

Last year Canada's merchandise exports to China rose four percent over 2015, topped by agriculture and forest products, copper and iron ores, and motor vehicles.

During the visit to Beijing and Guangzhou, Trudeau will meet with his counterpart Li Keqiang, Chairman Zhang Dejiang of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, and President Xi Jinping.

Chinese Premier Li travelled to Canada in September last year, when the two sides agreed to double bilateral commerce by 2025.