Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday completed a trip to meet Chinese leaders in Beijing but despite anticipation, formal free trade negotiations were not launched due to differences regarding gender, labour and human rights.
However, in a last minute move by the Canadian delegation, International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne will be staying behind in an effort to kickstart talks as Mr. Trudeau heads to a business conference in another part of China.
The prime minister met with both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in the Chinese capital during two days of high-level talks in an attempt to orchestrate a comprehensive free trade deal, something both sides still support, according to Trudeau.
“We will continue to deal with multiple different ways of benefiting our two countries as we work together, whether or not there are formal negotiations or exploratory talks,” Trudeau said during a news conference Tuesday.
The prime minister made clear that portional victories have come about via smaller deals between the delegation and Chinese leadership in beef and canola exports and improved co-operation over reducing carbon emissions, according to CBC News.
Trudeau said Tuesday morning local time that he brought up human rights issues with Li and would again with the Chinese president that evening local time before flying to Guangzhou to give a keynote address at an international business conference.
“The nature of the strong and constructive relationship means we can have frank discussions without endangering the positive relationship,” he said.
Gender and labour rights were also a sticking point for Canadian negotiators, on issues the Chinese government have a spotty record on.
Canadian winery owner John Chang remains in jail over a customs dispute and Uyghur activist Huseyincan Celil has been incarcerated since 2006 with a life sentence despite ongoing efforts by Ottawa to try to free them.
Canola Council President Jim Everson told CBC News that it’s important for Ottawa to continue to work towards a trade deal as the Chinese market is just as important to his growers as the United States.
Everson said having a “predictable and tariff-free environment” would lead to industry growth as beneficial as the free trade with U.S. markets.
Staff of the international trade minister were pulled off the prime minister’s airplane before take-off for Guangzhou as it was decided last minute Mr. Champagne would be staying behind in an attempt to hammer out trade negotiations.
It is unclear whether this came as a result of Trudeau’s meeting with Xi earlier that evening.
The Ambassador to China John McCallum says he will continue to work towards stronger ties with the government there.
“I’m not getting discouraged,” he told reporters Tuesday morning.
“There’s more work to do and we’re on it.”
More details to follow. Image 1 of Justin Trudeau and Li Keqiang from the Daily Caller.