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Trudeau to discuss Canada-China FTA, tar sands pipeline with Chinese foreign minister

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is interested in a free trade agreement with Canada if Trudeau approves a tar sands export pipeline.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to discuss a Canada-China free trade agreement (FTA) with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Parliament Hill today.

The Globe and Mail reports, “The Prime Minister has made re-engagement with China a key foreign policy initiative as his government presses for a free-trade deal with the world’s second-largest economy.”

That article highlights, “Polls show Canadians have a very negative impression of the Chinese government and are narrowly opposed to a free-trade deal with the country. A Nanos Research survey, commissioned by The Globe and Mail in February, found [that] by a narrow margin, poll respondents did not like the idea of a China-Canada free-trade deal. Forty-seven per cent said they opposed or somewhat opposed talks, and 41 per cent said they supported or somewhat supported them.”

This past December, China’s ambassador to Canada, Luo Zhaohui, stated, “At the policy level, we need to start the negotiation and conclusion of a free trade agreement sooner rather than later.”

In January of this year, the Globe and Mail 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.” Colin Robertson, a senior fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says, “They would like to buy our Canadian oil and gas, but they can’t get it there because they don’t have the pipeline. Basically, they want us to get pipelines, as do the Japanese and Indians, to the coast so they can get access to oil and gas.”

The pipeline that China wants could be either the Energy East, Trans Mountain or Northern Gateway pipelines, in that all have the capacity to ship crude oil to China.

If Canada signs a free trade agreement with China that includes an investment protection provision (as would be likely), it would make it that much harder to subsequently constrain the growth of the tar sands or to reject any of these pipelines. Calgary-based TransCanada has launched a $15 billion North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Chapter 11 challenge over the U.S. government’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. As Barlow has noted, “Free trade agreements undermine the ability of all levels of governments to regulate the sale or extraction of fossil fuels and promote renewable energy.”

Trudeau is expected to add an official visit to China around the time of the G20 summit there this coming September 4-5.