Trudeau and Chinese premier reveal progress, even without formal trade talks

CBC | Janyce McGregor | Nov 14, 2019

Trudeau Singpore FF 2019 - Trudeau and Chinese premier reveal progress, even without formal trade talksPM hopes to wrap up exploratory discussions, start negotiating ASEAN trade deal by spring

Canada may not be in comprehensive trade negotiations with China, but a laundry list of outcomes from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's hour-long meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday hints at what may be accomplished even without official talks.

Canada also hopes to start official negotiations on a trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by next spring, Trudeau told a working luncheon at ASEAN's annual summit in Singapore.

"We are meeting on the heels of some very successful economic meetings in Beijing," Trudeau told Li, China's head of government, as the two were photographed ahead of the first meeting.

"We will continue to talk in a frank and open way about ... issues that are important to people in both our countries."

Trudeau stopped by the Singapore Fintech Festival on Wednesday to give a speech promoting Canada's tech sector, telling a packed room of about 400 attendees that 'we get the way the world is going.' (Adrian Wyld)

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Canada and China may not have agreed on how to proceed with a comprehensive trade negotiation, but facts on the ground suggest similar work is already underway on several fronts.

In a statement released several hours after the leaders' meeting concluded, Canada's statement noted that the two leaders had a "frank and open discussion on human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion." Trudeau raised concerns about the treatment of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, it said.

The pair also discussed regional security issues, such as the denuclearization of North Korea, it said. The ongoing crisis affecting the Rohingya in Myanmar also came up, according to the release.

A joint statement on marine litter called for a reduction in single-use plastics, a reduction in microbeads in beauty products, and more work on recycling and other efforts to keep plastics out of oceans.

Trudeau also thanked Chinese officials for helping Canadian police fight drug trafficking, including the illegal sale of opioids.

Talks in Beijing laid groundwork

This was the third "leaders' dialogue" between Trudeau and Li.

Last weekend, two of Trudeau's ministers — Finance Minister Bill Morneau, and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr — were in Beijing for talks that set the table for the broad range of agreements revealed Wednesday.

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Trudeau's trip to Singapore for talks on the margins of the ASEAN summit has resembled more of a trade mission, with an itinerary full of opportunities to meet business people and market Canada's economy abroad.  He delivered a keynote speech in Canada's pavilion at the Singapore FinTech Festival on Wednesday, helping to promote the 20 companies from three provinces that participated.

At last week's China International Import Expo in Shanghai, 48 Canadian companies signed $1.67 billion in commercial deals with Chinese interests. The many aspirations for Canada–China trade laid out in Wednesday's announcement include a goal of doubling Canada's agriculture exports to China by 2025.

"There's been a great deal of progress, but let's remember that trade is not an event. It's not a day. It's a continuum of conversations," Carr told reporters after Trudeau concluded his meeting with Li.

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