China seeks free trade deal with Canada

Irshad Salim — China, a country with one of the largest appetite for oil in the world, wants to start talks with Canada about a free-trade deal, the country’s president said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Beijing with David Johnston, the representative of the Canadian monarchy, to discuss an evolving partnership.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported that the Chinese president called for the “launch of negotiations on a free trade agreement at an early date”, including expansion of cooperation in such areas as trade, law enforcement, technology and culture.

Beijing seeks full and open access to Canadian natural-resources sector as part of the trade deal.

Xi also proposed upgrading bilateral trade links, facilitating cooperation in energy resources, modern agriculture and clean technology, and expanding exchanges in education, youth, tourism and winter sports.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is said to be keen on deepening relations with China — a popular media poll this month revealed that a majority of Canadians favor bilateral free trade between the two countries but oppose opposed the government’s plan to sell to China two domestic companies dealing with military technology.

Concerned about the transfer of Canada’s advanced military laser technology to China, Canadian Security Intelligence Service also opposed Chinese’ takeover of Canadian firms dealing with military technology.

76 percent of Canadians, reported by Nanos poll, opposed the takeover of Norsat — leading provider of innovative satellite communication solutions — by China, while only 18 percent supported its purchase and 78 percent of Canadians opposed China’s purchase of Montreal-based ITF Technologies.

“For many Canadians, they actually believe those transactions put Canada at risk,” Globe and Mail quoted pollster Nik Nanos in an interview. “If the government continues to embark on this path, it will probably be a significant political risk for them.”

U.S. Defense Department was also concerned about Chinese investing in important technology such as artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented reality, New York Times reported earlier this year.

China is the second largest economy in the world, behind the United States, and in a decade it is projected to become number one in global economy.

Canada, meanwhile, has reached out to Asian economies in an effort to diversify an economy that depends heavily on trade with the United States. Canada counts the United States as its top trading partner.

In May, the Canadian government issued a public call to weigh in on the possibilities of reaching a free-trade agreement with China as the Central Bank of Canada warned that some of the protectionist policies from U.S. President Donald Trump left many economists and corporations guessing.

Canada is largely landlocked and relies almost entirely on the United States as its export destination for oil, a primary export commodity.

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