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Trudeau government seeks ‘progress’ on Canada-China ‘free trade’ within two years

Greenpeace China climate campaigner Liu Shuang tries to deliver a letter to the Canadian embassy in Beijing in advance of the COP 15 climate talks in Copenhagen, December 2009. Both Trudeau and the Chinese government are open to a further expansion of the tar sands and export pipelines to tidewater.

The Trudeau government is signalling it wants to move quickly on ‘free trade’ with China before the October 2019 federal election.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada has yet to formally launch free-trade negotiations with China. [After a first round of talks in Beijing in February, a] second round of exploratory talks will take place this week [April 24-28] in Ottawa. Other Western countries have taken as long as a decade to conclude free-trade pacts with Beijing. But Ottawa is now indicating it expects to move quickly.”

The article highlights, “The Liberal government wants to ‘demonstrate progress in our first mandate’, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in an interview. ‘That’s certainly the kind of urgency we bring to these discussions.’ …Mr. Morneau declined to define what ‘progress’ might look like. Canada and China have agreed to double trade by 2025, but Mr. Morneau said Ottawa is not wedded to the idea of a single, sweeping trade deal. Some Canadian academics and business leaders have suggested Ottawa may be better to pursue a series of sector-by-sector agreements that could be more quickly set in place. ‘That is exactly what the discussion at the exploratory level is considering. So we’re looking at those alternatives in terms of approach’, Mr. Morneau said.”

Still, Morneau is not ruling out a comprehensive ‘free trade’ agreement at this point.

A Nanos Research survey earlier this month found that 88 per cent would be uncomfortable or somewhat uncomfortable with a deal that would allow Chinese state-owned corporations to buy high-tech firms and that would allow these corporations to invest in the tar sands. In addition, 66 per cent say that Canada should link human rights to a free trade deal. These findings run counter to what the Chinese government has demanded (ability to purchase high-tech companies, the lifting of investment barriers in the tar sands, that democracy or human rights have no place in trade talks).

Charles Burton, a former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, has previously 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.”

In March, Canada’s ambassador to China John McCallum said, “The crucial point will be whether we can persuade the average Canadian or the average Canadian worker whether it’s good for him or her.”

That could be a hard sell given that studies show that ‘free trade’ deals like the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) cost jobs and worsen income inequality. They are also a disaster for the environment.

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 ‘I do not support a Canada-China FTA’ statement, you can send a message as clear as that to the consultation and the Prime Minister by going to our online action alert – Stop the Canada-China Free Trade Agreement talks!