Free trade with The Middle Kingdom?

With 17 specific government-to-government issues dealt with Canada and China appear to be setting the stage for free trade talks.

February 9, 2012   by CANADIAN PRESS

BEIJING: Canada and China appear to be setting the stage for free trade talks.

The two countries say they’ll wrap up a joint economic study by May, and once that’s complete, they will proceed to “exploratory discussions on deepening trade and economic relations.”

“Further diversifying our trading relations has the potential of greatly expanding Canadian growth and job creation,” Harper said in a speech to the Canada-China business forum at the close of his stop in Beijing.

Seventeen specific government-to-government issues were dealt with over the last two days in areas such as energy co-operation, human rights and agriculture.

And, Harper highlighted 22 commercial agreements also concluded, saying they are worth $3 billion.

But it could be a while before the Canadian economy benefits from the government-level co-operation as a number of announced plans are incremental steps forward in complex bilateral pacts.

In addition to the end of the economic study, the two countries also announced the end of negotiations on a free trade investment deal and a promise to move forward on an export agreement for Canadian uranium.

And, they agreed to increase their dialogue on human rights, as well as elevate education to be a strategic priority for both sides.

Relations between China’s leaders and Harper were decidedly warmer than the prime minister’s last visit in 2009, when Wen had chided him for not coming sooner.
Now the talks were full of praise.

“You put a lot of value on Canada’s relationship with China and are strongly committed to promoting the practical co-operation between our two countries,” President Hu Jintao told Harper. “I appreciate your efforts.”

Canada, China promote energy exports

© 2012 The Canadian Press

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