Envoy: China trade a priority

Updated: 2014-12-12 00:06

By WANG RU in Beijing(China Daily Canada)

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Envoy: China trade a priority

Canada's ambassador to China believes that China's efforts on addressing climate change will greatly benefit both countries.

"China's recent announcements on taking action to address climate change and increasing its non-fossil fuel share of all energy will create more opportunities in efforts to control air pollution and to support clean energy and nuclear technology," Ambassador Guy St. Jacques told China Daily in a lengthy interview.

"We are looking at boosting trade, investment and growth opportunities for Canadian businesses in these areas, and are supported by Canadian industries who have also expressed a strong interest in expanding their cooperation and business with Chinese firms."

Other areas of cooperation involving the climate include energy efficiency, carbon capture, utilization and storage, green construction technology and waste management, St. Jacques said.

St. Jacques recently sat down for an interview with China Daily on a wide range of topics including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in November, immigration, trade, tourism, the 2022 Winter Olympics and the overall state of Sino-Canadian relations.

On the APEC meeting, St. Jacques said that "China is an economic and global business powerhouse and did a first-rate job hosting the 2014 APEC Summit and process."

The ambassador said that during Harper's official visit to China just before APEC, he had successful meetings with China's leaders that "strengthened the foundation for future commercial collaboration and which will bolster Canadian companies' access to the many opportunities that this crucial market has to offer".

He said it would generate jobs and economic growth in both our countries.

"The announcement of the creation of an RMB trading center in Canada is very significant as it will facilitate trade in both directions," St. Jacques said.

As to whether Canada would start free-trade talks with China, St. Jacques said deepening Canada's commercial relations with China is a priority for Canada. As China continues to grow and reform its economy to bring greater benefit to its people, Canada can be an important partner.

"I would reiterate that Canada is open to Chinese investments that benefit Canadians, drive economic growth, and create jobs. The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which came into force on Oct 1, provides a more stable and predictable business environment for investors in both countries.

He said that during Harper's official visit to China, leaders agreed to deepen trade and commercial ties in agriculture, energy (including in the nuclear sector), civil aviation, health and financial services. China is Canada's second-largest trade partner.

The ambassador also said that the Canadian Embassy's trade offices "have proven effective in helping Canadian businesses - especially small and medium-sized enterprises find the opportunities and contacts necessary to successfully export to China".

St. Jacques said that the six trade offices that were opened in collaboration with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) in China in late 2009 - in Qingdao, Shenyang, Wuhan, Nanjing, Chengdu, and Shenzhen -have helped generate almost 500 business leads and facilitated 50 commercial transactions for Canadian clients, which are estimated to be worth more than $75 million.

During Harper's visit, he announced that Canada will open new trade offices in the Chinese cities of Hangzhou, Xi'an, Xiamen and Tianjin. He said the four new offices, which will all be opened by February 2015, will expand Canada's trade network in China, for a total of 15 locations across the country.

The ambassador sees a place for Canada in China's increasing urbanization.

"We are looking at expanding business opportunities for Canadian companies in civil aviation, health and life sciences, agriculture and bio-products, energy, environment and information and communications technologies (ICT)," he said.

"Canada's clean technology industries, oil and gas and nuclear businesses also have a strong interest in expanding their cooperation with Chinese firms."

On immigration, St. Jacques said that Canada's Economic Action Plan 2014 announced the government's intention to terminate the federal Immigrant Investor Program and Federal Entrepreneur Program in order to eliminate a large and longstanding backlog of applications, and "pave the way for new pilot programs that will better meet Canada's economic needs".

"The government will replace these programs with more focused and effective pilot programs that will ensure that immigrants make a real and significant investment in the Canadian economy."

He said details of the pilot programs should be announced in early 2015.

"We expect that China will remain one of the main sources of immigrants to Canada," St. Jacques said.

St. Jacques sees more opportunities for cultural exchanges between the two nations.

"From education to tourism to cultural exchanges, Canada is actively engaged in promoting people-to-people ties," he said, noting that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced in November that 2015-16 will be the "Year of People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges between Canada and China.

"Chinese tourism to Canada has increased by 30 percent so far this year," St. Jacques said. He said the growth was also linked to Canadian policy to issue mostly multiple-entry visas to Chinese citizens visiting Canada, which are valid for up to 10 years.

"Similarly, more flexible immigration rules related to student permits when combined with the quality of affordability of Canadian educational institutions, should guarantee a steady growth in the number of Chinese students going to Canada," he said.

When asked about China's prospects for hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, St. Jacques said: "We don't comment on the bidding process for major international games or bids by individual countries for major international games. But I will tell you that President Xi Jinping told Prime Minister Harper, during his recent visit to China, that hosting these Games in Beijing would greatly expand the number of participants in winter sports. PM Harper replied that he looks forward to future ice hockey games between our two countries!"

When asked about the current state of relations between the two nations, St. Jacques was optimistic.

"While at times there have been challenging issues in the bilateral relationship, and we discuss frankly the matters on which we disagree, our two countries nevertheless find common aspirations in providing jobs and prosperity to our citizens," he said.

"We hope the Canadian edition of China Daily will contribute to foster a better understanding between our two countries by explaining to Canadians the rapid and interesting changes that are taking place in China's economy and society."