Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada will pursue deeper trade ties with China: Prime minister

Meanwhile, U.S. president Donald Trump is currently embroiled in a trade dispute with China

Canada will pursue deeper trade ties with China, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday as the government rejected accusations its new U.S.-Mexico trade deal ceded sovereignty over that goal to the Trump administration.

The government found support from Canada’s chief negotiator of the original North American Free Trade Agreement, who said an unusual clause covering future free trade with “non-market” countries did not infringe Canadian sovereignty.

The new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement allows any of the countries to withdraw from the deal on six-month’s notice if one of the partners enters into a free trade agreement with a non-market economy — language widely seen as referring to China.

The USMCA also requires a member country to provide notice and information to the other two partners if it plans free trade talks with a “non-market” economy.

The clause in the new agreement — which still needs formal approval in all three countries — gives the other partners a say in the text of such a deal.

Conservative MPs repeatedly referred to that clause as a “Trump veto” during question period, while trade experts remained divided on whether that was in fact the case.

Trudeau said pursuing deeper trade with China remained a part of the government’s economic diversification strategy that has seen it sign a free trade pact with the European Union, move to ratify the rebooted Trans-Pacific Partnership this fall and push for deeper ties with South American countries.

“Obviously, China is a significant, growing player on global trade. And we, as always, will look for ways to engage, deepen and improve our trading relationship with them in ways that are beneficial both to Canadians and to everyone,” Trudeau said at an event in Vancouver.

Canada’s efforts to formally start free trade talks with China stalled late last year and there are no plans for formal talks on the horizon. Chinese leaders bristled at the Trudeau government’s progressive trade agenda that includes gender, labour and Indigenous rights.

John Weekes, Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator in the early 1990s, said the new clause is no different from the pact’s original clause that gives any country the right to terminate the agreement on six-month’s notice for any reason.

“I don’t really like it,” Weekes said of the new “non-market” clause. “But in terms of rights and obligations, it doesn’t impose any obligation on Canada not to negotiate an agreement with anybody. We don’t undertake to do that.”

President Donald Trump is embroiled in a trade dispute with China that has seen the U.S. impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to retaliate.

The inclusion of the clause surprised many trade experts, some of whom said it would impede Canada’s trade aspirations with China.

“The U.S. could conceivably terminate for Canada engaging in a free trade agreement discussion with China,” said Cyndee Todgham Cherniak, a Toronto trade lawyer on Canada’s roster for settling disputes under NAFTA.

“This impinges on Canadian sovereignty — the U.S. gets to tell us who we can enter into a free trade agreement with.”

Patrick Leblond, a University of Ottawa trade expert, said it doesn’t give the U.S. a veto over Canada’s trade policy.

Besides, he added, “Canada would not negotiate a deal that would threaten its access to the U.S. market. The United States as a market remains much more important than China ever will.”

A spokesman for Jim Carr, Canada’s new minister for international trade diversification, said nothing that Canada agreed to in the USMCA would hamper the ability to pursue trade a trade agreement with China.

Joseph Pickerill said Canada is making sure its “interests and values” are protected as it continues exploratory talks with “a complex market” such as China, and while it prepares to send a trade mission there next month.

“The rationale agreed to under USMCA aligns with this approach, and in no way infringes on Canada’s sovereign right to develop commercial relations with any country of its choosing.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Smithers man receives two-year sentence for fatal car crash

Over a year after a fatal crash, a Smithers man has been sentenced to two years plus a day in jail.

Fraser Lake business offers equine therapy to deal with life stressors

The idea is to have diverse businesses that provide more options to residents and tourists says Kim Watt-Senner

First Nations push for massive conservation area in northern B.C.

Includes ancestral areas of three Kaska Dena First Nations, just shy of the B.C.-Yukon border

Tahltan reach benefits agreement over Seabridge’s massive KSM gold mine project

$308M agreement provides additional billions for Tahltan jobs, contracts

B.C. court to mull continuing order against Coastal Gaslink pipeline opponents

Coastal GasLink was granted an interim injunction in December following arrests and protests

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

Victoria double murder trial: Blood splatter analyst found no shoe prints on scene

RCMP analyst testifies to smears, fingermarks, ‘swipe and wipe’ patterns around apartment

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Channel your inner pirate in epic Canada-wide treasure hunt

200 treasure chests hidden among trails and waterways, lots of prizes to be claimed

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

Most Read