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

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

25-year-old Rachelle Okrusko has been missing since Jan. 12, 2021. Photo provided by Wetaskiwin RCMP.
Wetaskiwin RCMP looking for missing woman

25-year-old Rachelle Okrusko has been missing since Jan. 12, 2021.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City of Wetaskiwin’s active COVID-19 cases drop below 100

Active COVID-19 cases in the City of Wetaskiwin are dropping.

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Alberta eases some COVID-19 restrictions

Salons, barbershops and other personal and wellness services will be open by appointment only

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Kenney kicks Pat Rehn out of UCP caucus after municipal complaints

Rehn had been criticized by municipal leaders in his constituency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

(Via the Canadian Press)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

‘They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat’

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy,’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

‘Realities on the ground’ means that provinces, territories will have difficult choices to make

Most Read