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

Nathan Cullen named Parliamentarian of the Year

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP won the top-title Nov. 5

VIDEO: Taking to the skies to protect moose in the Cariboo Chilcotin

Conservation Officer Service doubles patrols to oversee moose harvest

New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

Six radar installations set up for Georgia Strait to Queen Charlotte Strait to Prince Rupert

Central Coast Regional District swears in new Board of Directors

There are three new faces representing our region and two returning directors

VIDEO: Black horse signals ‘sign of peace’ for Tsilhqot’in Nation

Justin Trudeau rides black horse provided by Cooper family

VIDEO: Two officers of B.C. Legislature escorted out amid investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Shirtless stranger loomed over couch and started stabbing, bloody B.C. murder trial hears

Colin John pleads not guilty as trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder case

Late 2019 too long to wait for ridesharing: B.C. Conservatives

“While the rest of the world is embracing this transportation revolution, B.C. is only now staggering slowly toward legislation on a business model that’s been mainstreamed for over a decade in other jurisdictions.”

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

No deal in sight: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January

Union holds fifth week of rotating strikes as both sides remain apart on contract negotiations

COLUMN: Higher interest rates will slow B.C. economy after ‘unusually robust’ show

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

Jason Aldean, Old Dominion to headline Merritt’s Rockin’ River concerts next summer

Four-day music festival at Coldwater River from Aug. 1 to 4

Most Read