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

Ferry connecting Port Hardy and Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

BC Parks Student Ranger Program accepting applications for 2019 season

12 crews of four student rangers will work in regions throughout the province including Bella Coola.

Over $650,00 given to rural communities thanks to Rural Dividends

Five communities, including Williams Lake, are receiving $10,000 for project grants

Pregnant Cariboo firefighter tries to save own house from blaze

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

Road report for Highway 20

Fog patches and slippery sections; Drive BC

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Most Read