by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Feb 8, 2012
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday, kicking off a four-day trip aimed at prying open more of the Chinese market for Canadian resources.
During the visit Harper will also hold talks with President Hu Jintao and other top leaders that will likely focus on trade as oil and gas-rich Canada seeks to boost ties with the energy-hungry Asian giant.
Canada -- heavily reliant on the United States to buy its exports -- is keen to sell more commodities to China after Washington last month rejected a proposed pipeline to carry oil from the Alberta tar sands to the US Gulf Coast.
The Keystone XL pipeline was viewed as crucial to Canada's economic prosperity, by opening up new avenues to sell products from its landlocked oil sands to the United States and abroad.
"If you look at the world economy and where it's growing, the Asia-Pacific region is where the activity is," Harper's spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, told AFP ahead of the visit.
"Canada needs to be more engaged in the Asia-Pacific region," he said, adding that the trip's aim of diversifying the nation's markets was largely "in response to decisions taken in the United States".
China is already Canada's second-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade between the two countries soared 60 percent in the past two years to almost $50 billion in 2011, the China Daily said Wednesday.
"There is no conflict of fundamental interests between China and Canada," the official English language newspaper said in an editorial.
"The growth in Sino-Canadian ties has brought concrete benefits to both nations and at the same time promoted peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region and the whole world."
In recent years, Canada has opened new trade offices and sent ministers on 46 trips to China, and sent back two Chinese fugitives, earning it goodwill in Beijing.
For its part, China has been investing heavily in Canadian reserves of shale gas -- hard-to-reach gas trapped in sedimentary rock -- as it seeks to reduce its reliance on dirty coal and oil imports.
During this trip, Harper is expected to sign a few small deals such as a foreign investment protection and promotion agreement with China, and secure a loan of giant pandas to Canadian zoos.
After Beijing, he is scheduled to visit the southern city of Guangzhou and the southwestern mega-city of Chongqing.
The Canadian leader has been joined by his wife Laureen, several ministers and members of parliament and 40 business executives.
Harper was a vocal critic of China's human rights abuses during his first term in office and MacDougall insisted he was still concerned about the issue, but analysts expect it will be overshadowed by trade during the visit.
Global Trade News
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