Chinese officials do not understand why Canada is getting caught in the middle of its trade war with the United States.
In an interview with the West Block‘s Eric Sorensen, Nova Scotia Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil said the ongoing tensions between Canada and China amid its broader trade fight with the U.S. will only be solved by talking to each other because right now China does not seem to grasp Canada’s position.
“There’s no question China believes that Canada is in the middle of a fight between the U.S. and China. They have a hard time understanding why we’re there,” he said. “I think the fact that we need to continue to demonstrate to them why the federal government is part of this, why they’ve become part of this.”
McNeil, who has visited China seven times during his mandate and whose province has growing trade ties with the country, suggested the approach taken by some countries to try to restrict ties will not work to stabilize tensions.
“It has always been my belief that the best way to solve our differences, whether it’s with China or other jurisdictions, is dialogue, not protectionism,” he said.
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U.S. President Donald Trump is currently engaged in a trade war with China and has slapped tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods.
That comes as the two countries are holding on-again, off-again talks about a trade deal.
Since coming into office in 2016, Trump has increasingly moved the U.S. towards protectionism and isolationism, applying tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods including those coming from longstanding American allies including the European Union and Canada.
The tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum have since been lifted but the request by U.S. officials for Canadian border agents to detain and extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 has snarled Canada in the middle of the continuing American trade war.
Huawei is a Chinese technological darling and the arrest of Meng was followed just days later by China detaining two Canadian citizens, including a diplomat on leave while working for an international non-governmental organization.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been detained for seven months without legal access and only limited consular services.
Meng, meanwhile, is out on bail and living in her multimillion-dollar Vancouver home while her extradition case works through the courts.
The U.S. Department of Justice charged Meng and her company with 23 counts of skirting sanctions on Iran and corporate espionage in January 2019.
McNeil, who is one of just three Liberal premiers still standing, also weighed in ahead of the 2019 summer meeting of Canada’s premiers.
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That meeting is set to take place in Saskatoon this week and will bring together the premiers of all 13 provinces and territories.
They are set to discuss health care, federal funding, internal trade and energy and the meeting will be the last before the federal campaign this fall.
Several conservative premiers have already taken the federal government to court over the carbon tax, with two losing their initial fights.
But at least one — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney — has vowed to campaign against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the campaign.
McNeil was asked about why so many voters appear dissatisfied with the Liberal Party in the provinces but said he doesn’t think the party is the only one facing re-election challenges because voters are indicating they want to move in “a different direction.”
“I think if you look across the country, the electorate is volatile,” he said. “Regardless of the political stripe, we’ve seen in the last six years successive governments fall in different provinces, both Conservative, New Democrat and Liberal governments. I don’t think it’s a particular political stripe.”