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

City of Lacombe releases results of Citizen Satisfaction survey

79% of respondents grade Lacombe as have a high quality of life

Lacombe MP tables Bill to help address rural crime

Blaine Calkins’ Bill-C458 would add targeting rural citizens as an aggravating factor

ASFA announces fire engine donation in Lacombe

Aerial Apparatus being sent to Paraguay

Fighter Jets light up Bucs’ to take AFL first place

38-3 loss puts Central Alberta into second place in the AFL

WATCH: Blackfalds Days Parade takes over community

Floats from all over central Alberta wows crowd

Accused mother cries at Alberta trial over boy who died of meningitis

Parents charged with failing to provide necessaries of life for their son who died in 2012

Ponoka County receives update from energy lobby group

CAPP hopes to work with municipalities on property tax issues

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

Late night fight in Wetaskiwin results in aggravated assault, assault with a weapon charges

Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate armed robbery and aggravated assault

Maskwacis featured in documentary series that unearths Indigenous cuisine

Red Chef Revival’s host visits community, elders and Nipisihkopahk School

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

PHOTOS: Scamp the Tramp wins World’s Ugliest Dog Contest

‘He’s Scamp the Champ, no longer Scamp the Tramp,’ his Californian owner said.

Most Read