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September 24, 2016

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China, Canada to talk free trade

CANADA and China have agreed to begin talks for a possible free-trade accord with an aim of doubling bilateral commerce by 2025, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced.

“We’ve agreed to launch exploratory talks toward a potential free-trade agreement between Canada and China,” Trudeau said at a joint news conference on Thursday with visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

“And further to this, we’ve set an ambitious new goal to double bilateral trade between Canada and China by 2025.”

China is Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the United States, with trade last year exceeding CA$85 billion (US$65 billion).

“We know that there is a huge amount of untapped potential in our commercial relationship,” Trudeau said.

Li’s visit to Ottawa comes one month after Trudeau was in Beijing looking to “renew and deepen” Sino-Canadian relations.

Li praised the reboot after a decade of cooling under the previous Canadian administration. The Chinese premier said at the news conference: “We believe that China and Canada have extensive common interests and good relations.”

He told reporters: “These back-to-back visits in less than a month shows that China-Canada relations are moving to a new stage.”

Li and Trudeau agreed to meet annually to discuss security and the rule of law, and economic and financial matters. Their respective foreign ministers will also hold annual talks.

“Stepping up communications will increase mutual understanding and allow for proper handling of the issues and differences that we have,” Li said.

Li and Trudeau also announced a lifting of China’s bans on imports of Canadian canola (by 2020) and beef imports, and a tourism agreement that seeks to double two-way visits by 2025.

Last month, Canada said it would apply to join the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a move criticized by the United States but welcomed by Li.

A request by China for an extradition treaty with Canada, which Trudeau has agreed to consider, has ruffled opposition parties in Ottawa, however. On Wednesday, just before Li’s plane landed in Ottawa, opposition parties attacked the plan in parliament.

Trudeau shot back at critics and ruled out extraditions to countries where those convicted would face the death penalty.

“We will not extradite into situations of capital punishment, be it with the United States or any other country around the world,” he said.

Li also said that while the death penalty was needed in China, Chinese law provides for the humanitarian treatment of accused persons.

“There shall be no torture of the people concerned,” he said.

Li acknowledged possible lapses, but said: “For those who engage in misconduct not consistent with legal procedures, they are breaking the law and they will be dealt with by law.”

“I can tell you firmly that China is endeavoring to build itself into a country of rule of law, based on international law and international norms,” he added.


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