Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should pull the hundreds of millions of dollars he has committed to China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in retaliation for the country blocking Canadian canola exports, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says.
In a press conference on Monday, Scheer laid out what he described as a plan for how he would respond to the aggressive move by China last month to revoke import licences for Canadian canola companies shipping their product to the country as well as Beijing’s detention of two Canadian citizens late last year, which Trudeau calls “arbitrary and unfair.”
“It’s time for Canada to act,” said Scheer as he outlined three actions he says the government should take to push back at Beijing.
Key among them was for the government to yank back the $256 million over five years it committed to Beijing’s multilateral development bank in 2017.
That investment in the bank was billed as allowing Canadian companies greater access to bid on the infrastructure projects the bank will fund.
But Scheer said there has been no benefit and instead, the investment is going towards furthering China’s influence in the region when Canada should be taking a harder stance at pushing back at its geopolitical aggression and refusal to observe international laws.
WATCH BELOW: Scheer calls on Trudeau to launch WTO complaint over canola dispute with China
“Justin Trudeau sold this investment to Canadians as a way to improve trade between Canada and China. This has clearly failed,” he said. “I will not allow hard-earned tax dollars to flow to this institution.”
He also urged the government to immediately appoint a new ambassador to China in order to have high-level representation in the feud.
That post has been vacant ever since John McCallum, the former ambassador, was fired by Trudeau for repeatedly wading into the extradition case of Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO detained in Vancouver in relation to a request for extradition by the United States.
As well, Scheer called on the government to launch a complaint about the canola dispute with the World Trade Organization and boost its financial support for canola farmers hurt by China’s rejection of Canadian canola shipments, which has blamed on unproven concerns about pests.
The Liberal government has established a working group to address the canola issue, requested to send a delegation of experts to China to examine the complaints and says it has been exploring options to provide financial support to farmers.
So far, China has not responded to the request.
China’s decision to cut off Canadian canola seed shipments is widely viewed as an attempt to apply economic pressure on Canada following the December arrest of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the behest of the United States.
In the days following Meng’s arrest, China arrested two Canadian citizens on allegations of engaging in activities that have endangered Chinese national security.
International Trade Minister Jim Carr told the Canadian Press the government is currently looking for new Asian customers to buy Canadian canola — while still pursuing a diplomatic solution in China.
“We want to have a science conversation with the Chinese to verify any allegations that the very high quality Canadian canola has any impurities at all. We’re looking to have that proven to us,” the minister said.
“We will send a high-level delegation as soon as that invitation is sent to us. Meanwhile, it’s important that we look for other markets for our canola and certainly the Asia-Pacific is among them, including Japan.”
— With files from The Canadian Press