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Tender hints at continued development of Nova Scotia-China relations

Trudeau says Canada remains focused on Canadian citizens detained in China
Speaking to reporters in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government continues to engage with the Chinese government in regards to Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadian citizens detained by Chinese authorities.

A tender issued last week suggests Nova Scotia’s mission to build a relationship with China is unlikely to come to a halt any time soon, despite two Canadian citizens being detained in the country for more than 400 days.

Nova Scotia has put out a request for supplier qualifications (RFSQ) for a China market service provider that would arrange, among other things, transportation, accommodations, meeting requirements, and interpretation and translation for when the province’s representatives travel to China.

Whatever organization is awarded the contract will be relied upon on an “as requested” basis for the length of the contract, a detail that was not included in the RFSQ documents.

Tracy Barron, a spokesperson for the province’s department of intergovernmental affairs, said the initial contract is for a three-year period starting March 31. The province then has two one-year options to extend the contract.

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“This contract builds on an earlier RFSP to provide logistic services with China,” Barron wrote in an emailed statement.

READ MORE: Come for the lobster, stay for the dark skies — Nova Scotians to see direct flights from China

Documents state that representatives of the provincial government visit China “several times a year” and that it appears the province is committed to continuing that practice.

Premier Stephen McNeil has often taken part in those journeys, with his most recent trip coming in November. It was his eighth visit to China — which the government’s RFSQ refers to as a “mission” — since becoming premier in 2013.

McNeil has insisted that more can be gained through continuing to develop economic and cultural ties with China — a sentiment echoed by Barron in the statement provided to Global News.

“Nova Scotia’s relationship with China continues to benefit Nova Scotia businesses and the economy,” said Barron.

The RFSP indicates that the province has found some measure of success with its exports to China growing from $197 million in 2013 to approximately $1 billion.

Premier Stephen McNeil travelling to China for 8th time as tensions rise
Premier Stephen McNeil travelling to China for 8th time as tensions rise

But the commitment to growing trade — which Nova Scotia insists is at a “sub-national province-to-province level” — comes amid continued tension between China and Canada.

Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained by China in the days following the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities.

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Meng is wanted for extradition by the United States after being accused of lying about the Chinese tech company’s relationship with the Iran-linked Skycom to HSBC, effectively skirting American sanctions, and stealing corporate secrets.

According to Global Affairs Canada, Kovrig and Spavor were detained on Dec. 10. Both have been held without access to legal counsel since.

Both Kovrig and Spavor have received only intermittent visits with consular officials during more than a year of detainment and are being subjected to reportedly “harsh” conditions, including Kovrig having his reading glasses confiscated and the lights in their cells being left on at all hours.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly called for China to release the two Canadians, calling their detentions “arbitrary.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia cabinet ministers visited 17 countries in 19 months

The Nova Scotia government did not directly respond to a question about how it balances its economic interests with the detention of Kovrig and Spavor.

Instead, Barron provided this statement: “We are aware of the diplomatic situation between Canada and China and hope a resolution is found soon.”

The RFSQ closes on Feb. 25.

With files from Amanda Connolly and David Lao