The federal government has taken another step toward a free-trade agreement with China, officially launching three months of consultations that will help it determine “how to best proceed” with the possible deal.
The latest issue of the Canada Gazette announced a consultation process that will run until June 2, 2017.
The document notes that China is Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the United States, and that any trade agreement signed with the economic colossus (China had a GDP of CAD $14.8 trillion in 2016) could produce enormous economic benefits for Canadian businesses.
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“The Government is soliciting views from businesses, civil society organizations, labour unions, academia, individual Canadians, Indigenous groups, and provincial and territorial governments on objectives, key interests and potential concerns,” the document states.
Specifically, the government is looking for thoughts on how to improve market access for Canadian businesses in China, and for feedback on things like the temporary entry of business people from one country into the other, border and customs issues, investment barriers faced by Canadian investors in China and concerns surrounding human rights and environmental policy.
“Canadians may have concerns about China, including issues relating to the environment, labour, gender equality, rule of law and human rights,” the government documents state.
“A free trade agreement with China would not deter Canada from urging and working with China to meet its international obligations in these areas.”
The full list of potential topics is available here. Contributions can be sent by email or mail until June 2.
Last September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced that Canada and China had launched “exploratory discussions” for a possible free-trade agreement between the two nations.
The agreement would not involve the United States, which has taken a more protectionist stance under the administration of President Donald Trump.
Trump recently pulled the U.S. out of any future involvement with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, a major trade deal that included Canada, Japan and several other Pacific Rim nations — but not China.