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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduces Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after speaking to a business luncheon Friday in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduces Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after speaking to a business luncheon Friday in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

WANG WENTIAN

A new golden decade for Canada-China relations Add to ...

Wang Wentian is chargé d’affaires ad interim of the Chinese embassy in Ottawa.

In late September, 2016, Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Canada, the first trip by a Chinese premier in a long lapse of 13 years. It was also a reunion for Mr. Li and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shortly after the latter’s visit to China.

During Mr. Li’s visit, the two sides reached broad consensus on strengthening bilateral co-operation in politics, economy and trade, and people-to-people exchanges. The joint statement of the People’s Republic of China and Canada, which contains 29 items, was issued. The two sides announced a series of important developments and signed relevant agreements. It was a trip of friendship, mutual trust, practical co-operation and pioneering efforts.

I would like to outline the significance of these visits from five different perspectives.

First, political mutual trust was further enhanced. The exchange of visits between the Chinese Premier and Canadian Prime Minister within one month is extremely rare in the history of contemporary diplomacy. From the night talk in the Forbidden City in Beijing to the family dinner at Harrington Lake in Gatineau, not only did this breakthrough in conventional protocol establish a close personal friendship between the two leaders, but it also fully reflected the great importance that both countries attach to the development of bilateral relations.

Mr. Li’s visit officially started the annual dialogue mechanism between the Chinese Premier and Canadian Prime Minister, and in the future, leaders of the two countries will maintain close contact through bilateral visits, multilateral meetings, telephone conversations and correspondence to strengthen communication on important issues of mutual interest.

The two sides decided to launch the China-Canada Economic and Financial Strategic Dialogue at the vice-premier level at an early date. As well, they engaged to give full play to the role of the existing high-level dialogue and consultation mechanism to strengthen strategic communication and co-ordination on major issues of common concern. These initiatives will play an important role in enhancing mutual understanding and political trust, and will open a new chapter in the China-Canada strategic partnership.

Second, pragmatic co-operation was further expanded. Fundamentally, both sides agreed to take effective measures to expand the scale of bilateral trade. China and Canada have set an important goal of doubling the bilateral trade volume by the year 2025 on the basis of 2015. China will increase imports of competitive agricultural products, minerals and consumer goods from Canada. On the issue of importing Canadian canola, China agreed to handle it in a constructive way, with which the Canadian side is satisfied. Moreover, China will expand the market access for Canadian bone-in beef.

Both sides agreed to launch exploratory talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) as soon as possible. This is also significant as it is the first time that China will hold talks with a member of the Group of Seven on the issue of an FTA. Not only is this conducive to expanding trade and economic co-operation, but it will also send a clear signal to the international community to promote liberalization of trade and facilitation of investment, and to boost the confidence for the global economic and trade development.

Furthermore, the two sides signed a joint statement to encourage and support enterprises from both countries in developing third-party market co-operation and in combining China’s production capacity with advanced Canadian technology to achieve mutual benefit and a win-win situation.

Likewise, to strengthen financial co-operation, both sides welcomed direct trading between the renminbi and Canadian dollar on the China Foreign Exchange Trade System in Shanghai, as well as the issuance of renminbi bonds by relevant Canadian financial institutions in the China’s inter-bank bond market.

The two countries also signed an aviation technology arrangement, agreeing to further sustain bilateral air transport links. The two sides acknowledged to hold a new round of talks in 2017 to explore ways of accommodating the air traffic arrangements.

In addition, they signed multiple agreements on trade statistics, agriculture, consumer goods safety, customs and on other co-operation areas.

There is no doubt that the above outcomes of this visit will be a strong impetus to bolster co-operation, economic and trade ties between the two countries in a wide range of fronts, so as to promote economic development, increase employment and improve the incomes of the middle class in both China and Canada.

Third, people-to-people exchanges was further intensified. The two sides stressed the importance of strengthening these exchanges, and determined to increase bilateral visits and enlarge the two-way exchanges of students between the two countries. The goal of doubling two-way personnel exchanges by 2025 on the basis of 2015 statistics was announced.

Canada has pledged to simplify its visa application process for Chinese citizens, and will set up seven additional visa application centres in China.

The two sides also signed agreements on deepening co-operation in tourism and education, and will seize the important opportunity of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada in 2017 to attract more Chinese tourists to Canada.

During the visit, in the company of Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Li visited the home of the Montreal Canadiens, opening bilateral co-operation in winter sports, especially aiming at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

As well, China welcomed Canada being named the Country of Honour at the 2017 China Education Expo, as well as the expansion of the Canada Learning Initiative in China Program.

In addition, the two sides committed to holding the fifth ministerial dialogue on health within the next year and renewing the Plan of Action on Co-operation for 2017-19. In this way, popular support for the growth of China-Canada relations could be further enhanced.

Fourth, judicial co-operation was further strengthened. China and Canada face common challenges in areas of counter-terrorism, cyber-security and cyber-crime. The two sides will make more contacts on these issues to seek more opportunities of co-operation.

They agreed to initiate discussion on an extradition treaty and the treaty of transfer of sentenced persons, and signed an agreement on sharing and returning recovered assets and a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Public Security of China and the RCMP on co-operation in combating crime. All these measures provide the necessary legal basis for the joint fight against corruption and international crimes.

Finally, multilateral co-operation was further deepened. Both sides agreed that it is in their common interest to expand co-operation on regional and global issues, and decided to expand communication and co-operation in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation, ASEAN Regional Forum and others.

They reaffirmed their continued commitment to address climate change, support UN peacekeeping and find new means to co-operate on international development, global health and the empowerment of women and children.

As the current China-Canada co-operation ushers in unprecedented opportunities, it calls for a more stable and closer relationship between the two countries. We are ready to work hand in hand with the Canadian side to comprehensively implement the outcomes of the visits between Premier Li and Prime Minister Trudeau and to create a new “golden decade” for the relationship of the two great countries.

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