Canada-China Free Trade Agreement talks in Ottawa, April 24-28

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

A second round of exploratory talks on a proposed Canada-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will be happening in Ottawa this coming April 24-28.

The Globe and Mail reports, "Next Monday, Chinese and Canadian negotiators will sit down for five days in Ottawa for a second round of exploratory trade discussions. The first set of talks was held in Beijing in February."

In advance of those talks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had an hour-long telephone conversation with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports, "Trudeau expressed great importance to developing friendly cooperation with China... The initiation of Canada-China Economic and Financial Strategic Dialogue and the smooth advancement of the FTA exploratory discussions mark that bilateral cooperation is developing on the right track. Canada stands ready to, together with China, expand bilateral trade and investment exchanges..."

Furthermore, on that same day as the Trudeau's talk with Li, China's ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye told a business forum in Toronto, "We hope to speed up the exploratory discussions process on pushing China-Canada FTA."

The Globe and Mail notes, "Mr. Lu urged Canada’s corporate elite to 'actively introduce and explain to the Canadian public' the benefits of a free-trade deal with the world’s second biggest economy."

That urging from Lu no doubt comes given the deep unpopularity of the proposed deal in Canada.

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."

While the Chinese government has been clear in its demands, Globe and Mail writers Robert Fife and Steven Chase have commented, "the Trudeau government has kept largely silent about what Ottawa expects in return."

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!

It is critical to ramp up the number of submissions to the government during the April 24-28 period of the trade talks, especially as the Chinese government and Canada's business elite push for a deal.

It is also notable that Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is currently on a 10-day trade mission to China and Japan. The Calgary Sun has reported that she supports the talks toward a Canada-China FTA as well as "the federal Liberal government in reviewing restrictions on state-owned-enterprises investing in the oilsands".

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