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Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird responds during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 19, 2012.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

An agreement signed Thursday in Beijing will help Canadian companies export more uranium to China, said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

The "supplementary protocol," signed by Mr. Baird and Liu Tienan, head of China's National Energy Administration, will expand a nuclear co-operation agreement that's been in place since 1994.

"Canada is committed to building stronger trade and investment ties with China, our second-largest trading partner," Mr. B aird said in a release.

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"Increased collaboration with China's civil nuclear-energy market will give Canadian companies greater access to one of the world's largest and fastest-expanding economies, creating new jobs, growth and long-term prosperity."

The negotiations for the deal were completed during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's trip to China in February.

Saskatchewan-based Cameco Corp., one of the world's biggest uranium miners, welcomed what it called a "key milestone."

"The ability to export Canadian-sourced uranium to China is incredibly important to our company," said Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel in a release.

"It will mean more jobs, more development and more investment here in Canada by Cameco and other uranium producers hoping to access this huge and growing market for nuclear energy."

The future of global demand for nuclear energy was called into question last year when a tsunami and earthquake badly damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, causing a radiation release.

The fate of Japan's nuclear industry remains uncertain and the crisis prompted some European countries to rethink or cancel altogether their nuclear expansions.

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But Cameco says China is "one of the world's largest and fastest-growing consumers of nuclear energy."

Citing figures from the World Nuclear Association, Cameco said there are currently 14 nuclear reactors operating in China, more than 25 under construction and more in the planning stage.

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