The Toronto Star reports today that, “In a clear signal of improving relations, China’s President Hu Jintao will make an official state visit to Ottawa next week (on June 23-27) in advance of the G20 summit in Toronto.”
“Top of the list of issues to be discussed during Hu’s visit will be energy. With its economy continuing to boom, China has become increasingly attracted to energy resources around the world, and Canada’s oil and gas supplies are no exception. Preparations are already underway for the signing of energy agreements between Canada and China that could come as early as next week – or soon after.”
CHINA AND THE TAR SANDS
On September 1, 2009 the Globe and Mail reported that, “Calgary-based Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. (has) sold a 60-per-cent interest in two of its undeveloped projects near Fort McMurray to the international unit of PetroChina Co. Ltd. (whose parent is the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp.).”
These “undeveloped projects” contain an estimated 5 billion barrels of tar sands oil. National Post columnist Don Martin has written that tar sands exports to China, “will require Canada, whose pipelines now head only north and south, to punch a hole in the Rockies and open up a crude flow to the west coast, from where oil could head overseas.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on May 28 that, “Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. (has) asked regulators to approve the construction of its proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would transport oil from the oil sands region to Canada’s west coast for export overseas (to Asian markets, including China). Enbridge’s application begins the government review of the project, which is expected to be completed by 2012. Construction would begin in 2013. …The C$5.5 billion ($5.2 billion) project would begin to open up Asian markets for Canada’s oil sands industry after its scheduled completion date in 2016.”
The Canwest News Service reported on June 3 that, “The Harper government has quietly affirmed that… (a 1972 moratorium on oil and gas activity off the British Columbia coast implemented by the Trudeau government) doesn’t apply to oil-tanker traffic, despite the widely held view that such vessels are prohibited from plying the waters along B.C.’s northern coast. The federal government’s position, outlined in a statement issued last year, opens the door to a significant spike in tanker traffic under a $5.5-billion plan by Enbridge Inc.”
HARPER VISITS CHINA
Prior to his December 2-6, 2009 visit to China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper Harper said, “Our two countries enjoy a growing partnership, sharing significant interests in trade and investment, the environment and regional security.” The Globe and Mail reported at that time, “One Conservative… underlined how Canada cannot rely on the U.S. as its dominant trading partner, and had to look harder at emerging partners like China.”
CANADA-CHINA INVESTMENT AGREEMENT?
In a speech on September 3, 2009 in Beijing, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said, “A Canada-China investment agreement would send an important message to business and investors that foreign investment in both directions is a vital part of developing the full potential of the relationship.” He added, “There have been discussions about a Canada-China Investment Agreement for more than 10 years. The time has come to get it done.”
In May 2007, then trade minister David Emerson said that he thought a Canada-China free trade agreement could be reached in two years. While that hasn’t happened, Emerson did indicate at that time that it was a priority for the Harper government.