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Concerns arise amid new tensions between Canada, China

By NA LI in Toronto | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-12-19 23:27
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File photo: Stephen McNeil

Tensions have grown between Canada and China since the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou earlier this month in Vancouver.

"Obviously we're concerned about it. It's our hope that this could be resolved as quickly as possible," Stephen McNeil, premier of Nova Scotia, an Atlantic Canada province closely linked to China through trade, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Monday.

Meng was detained in Vancouver on Dec 1 at the request of the US. She is the also vice-chairman of the smartphone giant and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei. She was eventually freed on bail of C$10 million (US$7.4 million) on Dec 11.

McNeil said that when the two nations' peoples are open to each other, it increases understanding.

The premier made his fifth trip to China last month to promote trade. The latest foray was to advance efforts for a direct air link with the economic powerhouse.

"I've only ever been treated with respect," he said. "The first time I went in, I said this many times, it was about building a relationship."

The province — which currently exports about $600 million worth of goods to China, mostly seafood like sea cucumber and lobster — signed a new economic agreement with Guangdong province in November.

McNeil praised the province's governor, Ma Xingrui, calling him a "tremendous supporter" of Nova Scotia: "He's worked very hard to ensure that we've had access to airlines, ensuring that seafood trade continues.

"So I've had nothing but a wonderful experience as we go into China and am looking forward to the next time to continue to grow that relationship for the province of Nova Scotia," McNeil said.

China is Nova Scotia's second-largest trading partner after the US.

Officials say the trade relationship continues to grow, from C$150 million in exports in 2012 to C$494 million in 2016. Sectors ripe for continued growth include seafood (lobster, shrimp and crab), agrifoods — mainly blueberries and blueberry products — ocean technology, marine science, education and transportation.

Last month, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and International Trade Minister Jim Carr were in Beijing to co-chair the first Canada-China Economic and Financial Strategic Dialogue along with Chinese State Councilor Wang Yong.

The two sides agreed to jointly facilitate economic growth and to defend the global multilateral system and economic globalization.

At the China International Import Expo in Shanghai last month, Canada and China signed 18 agriculture and agrifood agreements worth more than C$353 million. The agreements were part of the $1.67 billion in deals struck by all Canadian companies over the 10-day period.

However, the warm relationship cooled dramatically following Meng's arrest at the Vancouver International Airport. Canadian media said that Canada inserted itself into the trade dispute between China and the US.

On Chinese social media, there is a call for a "Canada Goose boycott". Canada Goose Holdings Inc is a Toronto-based manufacturer of popular winter wear.

The timing could not be worse for the luxury jacket maker, which just last month launched a splashy entry into China with a store in Hong Kong and plans for a Beijing flagship, betting that the country's growing middle class is ready to spend on its Arctic-ready, $1,000-plus parkas with the signature arm emblem.

But Canada Goose said on its Weibo account late Friday that it was postponing the store's debut, scheduled for last Saturday in Beijing's trendy Sanlitun district, "due to construction reasons".

Canada Goose stock has fallen almost 20 percent, and a Twitter hashtag about it has been viewed more than 220 million times, according to media reports.

Conversely, another parka maker, Bosideng International Holdings Ltd from Hong Kong, has seen its shares rise by double digits.

Meanwhile, two Canadians are under investigation in China due to being suspected of engaging in activities that harm China's national security.

Canada and China also "mutually agreed to postpone" a ceremony marking the end of the Canada-China Year of Tourism last week.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

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