One day after China halted Canadian pork imports, Canada’s trade minister says an investigation is underway into the claim that documents used to ship the meat were fraudulent.
The Chinese embassy said Tuesday that its customs authorities found the residue of ractopamine – a banned feed additive for farmed animals – in a batch of pork products from Canada.
The additive, which accelerates a pig’s growth, is allowed in Canada and in the U.S.
China claims Canada used as many as 188 “counterfeit” veterinary certificates to export the pork products and that “urgent preventative measures” were needed.
International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr said Wednesday he’s skeptical of the product’s origins.
“Someone is going to have to come up with some proof that there is something wrong with the product,” Carr told reporters in Toronto on Wednesday.
“We don’t know where the product originated.”
Carr said Canadian officials became aware of a certificate issue 10 days ago and only in the past few days did China let them know their intentions to ban pork.
He said inauthentic certificates in this business are “not common” but “not unprecedented.”
“We’re treating this as a technical issue. The Chinese are treating this as a technical issue,” he said.
“There are inauthentic certificates that are at play here and we’re taking it seriously.”
Carr also suggested the meat may not have originated in Canada.
“Someone is trying to use the Canadian brand to move product into the Chinese market. We’re in close touch with the industry, with Chinese counterparts, with provincial officials… We want to get to the bottom of it.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau that an issue involving export certificates had been identified that was specific to China, but that measures had been taken to address it.
WATCH: Chinese embassy asks Canada to suspend all meat exports over ‘forged certificates’
The move to stop Canadian pork imports is the latest in a series of blows from China following the arrest of tech giant Huawei’s CFO and daughter of the company’s founder, Meng Wanzhou.
Meng was arrested at the Vancouver airport in December at the request of U.S. officials and has been accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. She has denied any wrongdoing.
The arrest ignited a complicated series of events between the three countries.
When asked about the diplomatic dispute, Carr denied that the move is another instigation.
“No one is looking to escalate or exacerbate tensions,” he said.
“We’re now in the process of investigating the source of these certificates and that’s the first order of business and we’re concentrating fully on that.”
The Chinese embassy did not explicitly link the meat suspension to Meng’s pending extradition in its statement on Tuesday.
However, tensions between Canada and China rose dramatically while Meng remains on house arrest pending possible extradition to the U.S. on fraud charges.
Prior to the blanket ban on Canadian pork, China blocked the import of canola seeds and banned three specific pork companies.
WATCH: China bans more Canadian products: What’s the impact on Alberta farmers?
Earlier this week, Meng’s lawyers called on Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti to abandon the extradition process.
China’s renewed calls for her release on Wednesday. The foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that Canada should “take seriously China’s concerns.”
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a meeting at the White House that he was willing to raise Canada’s concerns to the Chinese president to help quell the political dispute.
Trump is due to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan this week.
— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters