Canada and China hail ties as trade talks languish

Beijing (AFP) –


Visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, with each side voicing hope for future cooperation even as expected trade talks have failed to materialise.

Trudeau arrived in China this week amid speculation the two sides would announce the start of talks on a proposed free trade agreement.

But with top-level meetings in Beijing now completed, no progress has been announced.

Meanwhile, Canada's trilateral talks with the United States and Mexico to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) appear headed towards deadlock.

Trudeau told reporters earlier Tuesday with regard to the China pact that both sides want to "make sure the progress we make is solid and the things we commit to, we can deliver on".

At a meeting later in the day, Xi hailed Trudeau's second visit to China in as many years as "extremely useful" for bilateral relations, but otherwise no news emerged from the encounter.

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

On Monday Trudeau and Premier Li Keqiang signed cooperation documents covering energy, food products and education, but details have been scant.

Li said exploratory talks on a potential free-trade agreement would continue.

China already has such deals with Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland, among others.

The two sides also said Monday that Canadian beef and pork would have greater access to the Chinese market and that they would work toward agreement on Canadian exports of canola to China.

A new joint statement on battling climate change was also issued but no details given.

Trudeau's five-day visit, which ends Thursday, is his second to China since he came to power two years ago.

On NAFTA, Canada and Mexico staunchly oppose US proposals to add a sunset clause to the trade deal along with requirements for minimum US content in car parts and the nixing of the pact's trade dispute mechanism.

The US has adopted a more protectionist tone under President Donald Trump.

"It's a time where there is much political space given up in various countries for populism or resurgent nationalism, and Canada stands strongly... for international trade that benefits everyone," Trudeau told reporters.

He travels Tuesday night to the southern city of Guangzhou to attend a business forum.

Chinese Premier Li visited Canada in September 2016, when the two sides agreed to double bilateral commerce by 2025.