A second round of exploratory talks with the Chinese government on free trade is set for this July, says Canada’s new ambassador to China, John McCallum.
McCallum, who left federal politics and his position as immigration minister over the winter, told The West Block’s Vassy Kapelos that so far, discussions with Beijing are “going very well.”
“It takes two to tango, and my impression having been in China for five weeks is that the Chinese government are also keen to work with us to do more,” McCallum said.
The two countries announced last fall that they were engaging in informal talks ahead of possible negotiations on free trade.
With the increasingly protectionist sentiment in the United States, McCallum said it makes sense to diversify Canada’s international trading interests. A new trade agreement with Europe is also about to come into force this summer.
“Would we ever replace the United States? Of course not,” he added.
“I think there’s potential for our trade to grow in a very important way with China. The official target is to double trade in the next 10 years.”
McCallum said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping recently that Canada wants more trade in goods and services, more investment, more international students and more tourism.
“He smiled and he nodded. He didn’t give a direct response,” said the ambassador, whose wife is Chinese. “I like to think he understood me.”
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The Canadian government is aware of widespread concerns about human rights abuses in China, McCallum told Kapelos, and works in public and in private to express its opposition to things like people held in detention and the use of the death penalty.
The next steps on free trade will involve the second round of exploratory talks and the completion of consultations with Canadian industry, which began in March.
McCallum predicted it will be “into the fall” before any decision is made on whether to move forward with formal trade negotiations.
“That having been said I’m very optimistic this is a brand new era for strong China-Canada co-operation.”
Watch the full interview with John McCallum above.