On China trade, Canada should tread carefully

by Colin Robertson

The Globe and Mail
October 23, 2018

So now, in the wake of the USMCA, China wants a trade deal with Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says our country is ready. Improving trade ties with China would go a long way to trade diversification but Canadians should tread carefully.

More engagement with the world’s second biggest economy that is growing at twice the rate of our U.S. and EU partners makes a lot of sense. Economics aside, we have expanding people-to-people ties: the Chinese are our largest group of foreign students; Chinese tourism is up by double digits; and 10 per cent of recent immigrants came from China.

So the question is not about whether to engage, but how best to engage.

Negotiating a full free-trade agreement, says the Public Policy Forum’s useful report, Diversification not Dependence, could take a decade. Last December, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang rejected Prime Minister Trudeau’s overture on a closer economic partnership, dismissing out of hand the gender and aboriginal rights integral to Mr. Trudeau’s progressive trade agenda. The Chinese aren’t open to change, so have we decided to drop the progressive agenda?

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