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Luo Zhaohui is China's ambassador to Canada

On Feb. 28, China and Canada reached a reciprocal agreement on issuing long-term and multiple-entry visas, which takes effect today, March 9.

With this arrangement, visa offices in China and Canada will issue to citizens – for business travel, tourism or family visits – multiple-entry visas that are valid for up to 10 years, but not exceeding validity of applicant's passport. Each stay may not exceed 180 days.

This arrangement is another remarkable achievement in the development of bilateral relations between China and Canada.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited China last November, a broad consensus was achieved regarding politics, the economy and people-to-people exchanges. After the successful trip, the foreign ministries of two countries began the negotiation on a reciprocal visa arrangement, and reached agreement in a short period. This is of vital practical and long-term significance for our bilateral relations, in particular the people-to-people exchanges.

First of all, this arrangement reflects the great importance attached to bilateral relations by our two sides, and it is also responsive to the aspirations of our two peoples, and will greatly inject new vitality into our friendly, co-operative relations. I have noticed the strong desire from Canadians and Parliament to facilitate our people-to-people exchanges, and I believe this new arrangement will fulfill that wish.

Second, this arrangement will further promote people-to-people exchanges. According to statistics, China issued 230,000 visas to Canadian citizens last year, and 80 per cent were for business, tourism and family visits. This indicates a vast majority of Canadian travellers will benefit from this new arrangement. Last year, two-way personal exchanges between China and Canada reached 1.14 million person/times, Chinese citizens visiting Canada as the first stop reached 472,000, with 667,000 Canadian citizens visiting China.

Third, this arrangement will benefit those who visit their friends and relatives in each other's country. There are around 1.5 million overseas Chinese in Canada, which represents the largest immigrant group. Moreover, the total number of Chinese students in Canada exceeds 100,000. Both groups are eagerly looking forward to receiving long-term and multiple-entry visas.

Fourth, this arrangement will further facilitate bilateral economic and trade co-operation. Last year, China-Canada trade volume reached $55.2-billion (U.S.). China is Canada's second largest trading partner, the second largest source of import and the second largest export market, while Canada is the second largest destination of China's overseas investment. This arrangement allows businesspeople from both countries to just pack their luggage and go across the Pacific Ocean with their long-term and multiple-entry visas, making business travel more convenient and less costly.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties and the 10th anniversary of establishment of strategic partnership between China and Canada. And 2015-2016 has been identified by both countries as the Year of People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges. I am confident that this arrangement will take bilateral relations to a new level.