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As Canada-China FTA talks resume this month, poll shows 88 per cent uncomfortable with deal

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing exploratory talks on a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement, September 2016.

The Trudeau government is having a hard time selling the proposed Canada-China Free Trade Agreement to the public.

The Globe and Mail reports, “A Nanos Research survey of 1,000 Canadians, conducted April 1-4, found 88 per cent are uncomfortable or somewhat uncomfortable with the prospect of a free-trade deal that would allow Chinese state-owned corporations to buy high-tech Canadian firms and lift restrictions barring these enterprises from investing in Alberta’s oil sands. [But] China’s new envoy to Canada has said any bilateral deal must remove restrictions on state-owned enterprises investing in the oil sands and give them open access to the Canadian economy without national-security screening.”

The article adds, “Ambassador Lu Shaye [says] last month that ‘democracy or human rights’ had no place in the trade talks.” There again the poll found that 66 per cent of those surveyed believe Canada should link human rights to the free trade talks.

Exploratory talks toward a Canada-China FTA began on February 20 in Beijing and a second round is set to take place this month.

The Globe and Mail has also reported, “China wants to forge a historic free-trade deal with Canada, but a senior Chinese official said this will require Canadian concessions on investment restrictions [notably in the oil and gas sector] and a commitment to build an energy pipeline to the coast.”

In September 2016, CTV reported, “[Former Conservative prime minister Brian] Mulroney says that growing trade between Canada and China depends on Trudeau approving the Energy East Pipeline. Mulroney [says] Trudeau ‘could have a nation building exercise that would then allow him to service the Chinese and others more beneficially for Canada’, if Energy East and other pipelines are built.” Mulroney is now also advising the Trudeau cabinet on the upcoming renegotiation of NAFTA.

Charles Burton, a former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, has commented in The Globe and Mail, “Opinion polls indicate most Canadians do not want further political-economic integration with China, but elements of Canada’s business elite, with lucrative connections to Chinese business networks, are lobbying the Prime Minister’s Office hard to push on.”

Canada’s ambassador to China John McCallum has commented, “The crucial point will be whether we can persuade the average Canadian or the average Canadian worker whether [a free trade agreement with China is] good for him or her.”

The Trudeau government has launched an online public consultation on the proposed Canada-China FTA — strangely, six months after it announced exploratory talks would take place and three weeks after those talks began in Beijing. This 90-day consultation period ends on Friday June 2.

While the government’s online form does not allow for a straightforward and clear ‘I do not support a Canada-China FTA’ statement, you can send a message to the consultation and to Prime Minister Trudeau by going to our online action alert – Stop the Canada-China Free Trade Agreement talks!

The Council of Canadians supports the call for a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050 and opposes free trade agreements that enable and protect damaging extractive projects. We oppose the Canada-China Free Trade Agreement and see it as detrimental to people and the environment in both Canada and China.