Although Canadian officials are assuring people in this country that a suspension of pork export permits to China is a temporary administrative issue, one academic who specializes in food distribution says it’s all about politics.
Dalhousie University’s Dr. Sylvain Charlebois – also known as ‘The Food Professor’ – told 680 CJOB Friday that the pork situation is just another part of a larger diplomatic rift between the two countries that has been ongoing for months.
The China/Canada clash, he said, is more connected to this country’s continued detention of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou than it is to anything about food.
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“The government of Canada has to play a specific role in that it can’t openly accuse a trading partner for not being honest,” said Charlebois. “They’re using that science-based rhetoric and they talk about administrative challenges.
“Since December, when Ms. Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver, we’ve been dealing with lots of issues and it’s only been escalating since. So I’m not surprised to see canola being hit first, and then we had peas, soybeans, and now pork.”
Charlebois said Canada’s credibility has been damaged by the fact that the federal government insisted there was no political interference in the Meng affair – but a few months later, it was implicated in political interference in the SNC Lavalin affair, which made worldwide headlines, including in China.
“The SNC Lavalin case has really tainted our government outside our borders, and China knows that and is taking advantage of that.”
In March, the Chinese Foreign Ministry publicly called out Canada’s government and questioned its judicial independence in connection with SNC Lavalin.
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Charlebois said the pork decision and the alleged administrative problems are significant, because China is dependent on Canadian pork.
“China actually needs out pork, and they seem to be willing to say no to our pork,” he said.
“China is the largest consumer of pork in the world. They’re willing to compromise their food security, I guess, just because they felt insulted by the arrest in Vancouver a while back.”