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Trudeau government tries to sell the Canada-China Free Trade Agreement to workers

Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum

The Trudeau government believes it has to sell a proposed Canada-China Free Trade Agreement to workers.

The Canadian Press reports, “Canada’s Beijing-bound John McCallum says he’s aware of the populist anger toward liberalized trade in the Western world. While he’d like to see negotiations move forward, McCallum says Canadians will need to see tangible economic benefits — new jobs, in particular. McCallum cites tourism as a potential growth sector if Canada can attract even a fraction of the hundreds of millions of Chinese travellers that are estimated to be venturing abroad in the next five years.”

Exploratory talks toward a Canada-China FTA began in Beijing on February 20.

The International Centre for Sustainable Trade and Development adds, “In preparation for further negotiations with Beijing, the Canadian government published in its gazette that it was soliciting views on the potential deal from various sectors in Canadian society; from individual Canadians themselves to businesses, indigenous groups, and provincial governments, among others. This consultation period will last until 2 June 2017.”

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

McCallum is aware that a Canada-China FTA does not have popular support in Canada. A February 2016 Nanos Research poll found that 41 per cent would support or somewhat support a free trade agreement with China, while 47 per cent would oppose or somewhat oppose a deal. An August 2016 EKOS Research Associates poll found that 46 per cent would support a free trade agreement, while 46 per cent would oppose it.

McCallum says, “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 is going to be a hard sell in 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.

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.”

The Council of Canadians opposes a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement and sees it as detrimental to people and the environment in both Canada and China.