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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with Chinese President Hu Jintao following a signing ceremony at the APEC Summit in Vladivostok, Sunday September 9, 2012.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was meeting Chinese President Hu Jintao on the final day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit.

The two leaders presided over the signing of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which was announced during Mr. Harper's visit to China in February.

The Sunday morning meeting is considered the centerpiece of the prime minister's trip to the APEC summit in Russia because of his government's focus on expanding trade with the Asian economic giant.

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"Mr. prime minister, we attach great importance to the China-Canada relationship," said Mr. Hu, as the two leaders took up seats opposite a long table, flanked by their officials.

"I look forward today to discussing with you a range of issues and finding ways to further strengthen our relationship," Mr. Harper replied.

The meeting also comes at a key time because Industry Canada's ongoing review of the China National Offshore Oil Co.'s $15.1-billion deal to buy Calgary-based Nexen Inc. (TSX:NXY).

China has already invested heavily in Canada's natural resources sector, but the Nexen bid has sparked concern because CNOOC is a state-owned company, not a private company.

Prior to arriving at the summit, Mr. Harper said the onus is on China to show that its state-run enterprises can be trusted to play by the same rules that apply in Canada.

Mr. Harper told a business audience in Vancouver that Canada can conduct its relations with China respectfully, "but (is) not afraid to further our own interests and to raise our own concerns on things like human rights." He added that Canada has "important things that the Chinese want"

Mr. Harper said he wants to deepen economic relations with China but that relationship must be a two-way street, or "win-win to use the Chinese expression."

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Mr. Harper's other big meeting at the summit came Saturday with his host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, when the two men essentially agreed to disagree on the crisis in Syria.

The summit is being held in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

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