Harper signs $2.5 billion in trade deals with China; tensions remain

The prime minister raised concerns about the three-month imprisonment of Canadian coffee shop owners Kevin and Julia Garratt


BEIJING, China – Stephen Harper and Chinese officials signed a flurry of trade and currency deals on Saturday worth as much as $2.5 billion while tensions seemingly lingered between the two countries about the detention of a Canadian couple accused of espionage.

The prime minister raised his concerns about the three-month imprisonment of Kevin and Julia Garratt with Premier Li Keqiang (KUH-chee-yahng) during a closed-door meeting at the ornate Great Hall of the People, a spokesman for Harper said.

Harper didn’t reiterate those concerns publicly when Li, the second most powerful man in China, was asked about the fate of the Garratts during a post-meeting news conference.

“We have discussed a full range of issues in our bilateral relationship in a frank, open and friendly manner,” Harper said in remarks to the media.

Li, meantime, said they “talked about the rule of law and human rights.”

As for the Garratts, the premier added: “As for individual cases, I want to reiterate that as China continues to build a country under the rule of law, I believe that judicial authorities should be able to handle cases in accordance with the law.”

The Garratts have lived and worked in China for 30 years and were running a coffee shop near the North Korean border when they were detained in August on suspicion of spying. They haven’t been charged but have been repeatedly interrogated.

Their son, Simeon, was in China in recent days, timing his visit to Harper’s. He has demanded the Chinese release his parents, but said he hasn’t been able to glean much new information about their plight, nor has he been allowed to visit them.

“If there’s anybody out there that’s going to be able to help my parents, it’s him,” Garratt told CTV, referring to Harper.

The Canadian government hasn’t formally demanded the release of the Garratts.

But the couple’s detention was among a series of irritants between Canada and China that almost scrubbed Harper’s third visit to the country. The Chinese detained the Garratts just days after Canadian officials publicly accused them of cyber-espionage.

At the 11th hour less than two weeks ago, Harper opted to travel to China in a visit that has focused largely on trade and economic issues.

On Friday, the prime minister confessed one of the reasons he travelled to China was simply because Chinese officials “really wanted me to be here” for the APEC summit kicking off Monday.

In keeping with the economic theme of his latest visit, Canada and China signed dozens of commercial deals — including pacts on blueberries, anti-air pollution technology and potash — valued at more than $2 billion on Saturday.

Among the biggest agreements signed includes a deal for Bombardier to sell more than $1 billion in aircraft to China Express Airlines. An Air Canada-Air China joint venture is also valued at more than half a billion dollars.

And a hotly anticipated reciprocal currency deal between Canada and China marks a significant turning point in relations between the two countries, experts said.

The agreement will foster far easier trade between the Canadian dollar and the Chinese yuan, also known as the renminbi. It makes Canada the first country in the Americas to have a deal to trade in the renminbi.

Authorized by China’s central bank, it will allow direct business between the Canadian dollar and the Chinese yuan, cutting out the middle man — in most cases, the U.S. dollar.

Canadian exporters forced to use the American currency to do business in China are faced with higher currency exchange costs and longer waits to close deals.

Jason Henderson, head of global banking for HSBC Canada, lauded the deal.

“China is the second largest economy in the world and is growing faster than any of the world’s large economies, so if Canada is going to maintain the standard of living that we have today, we need to tap into that economy,” he said.

“It’s important for Canada and it’s a great symbol for Harper to have gone to China to strike this deal; it means we support the internationalization of China’s capital markets and recognize its importance to Canada.”

Perrin Beatty, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, agreed, but suggested Canada has been too slow to recognize the importance of the Chinese market.

“The rest of the world is here looking for opportunities to do business and we’re playing catch-up,” he acknowledged on the sidelines of a Canada-China business conference in Beijing where Harper appeared.

“But we can do it …. It’s not too late.”

Harper meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday.

Follow Lee-Anne Goodman on Twitter @leeanne25


Harper signs $2.5 billion in trade deals with China; tensions remain

  1. Yup…..behind the times, interfering, ignorant of history….that’s us.

    Interesting that the Chinese have to teach us how to do business.

    • Must be nice to be the critic and safely removed from being the playwrite!

  2. Exporting more jobs to China creates jobs!

      • Unemployment Rate in Canada decreased to 6.50 percent in October of 2014 from 6.80 percent in September of 2014. Unemployment Rate in Canada averaged 7.74 Percent from 1966 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 13.10 Percent in December of 1982 and a record low of 2.90 Percent in June of 1966. Unemployment Rate in Canada is reported by the Statistics Canada.

        • Highest unemployment rate was achieved as a result of the policies of Justin Trudeau’s father Pierre.

    • Canada Unemployment Rate Down to 6-Year Low

      Canadian jobless rate fell to 6.5 percent in October of 2014 from 6.8 percent in September. It is the lowest rate since November of 2008. Employment edged up for the second consecutive month by 43,100.

      Compared with October of 2013, part-time employment rose by 101,000 (+3.0 percent) and full-time employment was up 81,000 (+0.6 percent). Over the same period, the number of hours worked rose slightly (+0.4 percent).

      All of the employment gains in October were among people aged 25 to 54, with most of the increase among women in this age group. Employment was little changed among youths aged 15 to 24 in October. However, their unemployment rate declined 0.9 percentage points to 12.6 percent as fewer youths searched for work. On a year-over-year basis, youth employment was up 39,000 (+1.6 percent).

      Provincially, employment rose in Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, while it declined in New Brunswick.

  3. China knows how to do business for profit, Harper, because of his track record of failed foreign policies, …, proves he can’t do it for us.

    • Obama is pulling the US out of it’s hole, and Harp is free-riding on his coat-tails.

      If the US goes for another chop….we’ll crash.

      • From the New Yorker;

        Now Obama seems at risk of running out his time in office by accepting dutifully the shrinking boundaries of his Presidency. Last Wednesday, at a press conference in the East Room, he spoke about how, even without congressional support, his Administration might yet improve customer service at government offices—an aspiration so small that it would sound sad if voiced by a mayor of Topeka. Asked about being called a lame duck, Obama replied, “That’s the label that you guys apply.” He outlined a modest legislative agenda that might be pursued with Republican coöperation, if such a thing could be obtained: infrastructure spending that would create high-paying jobs, a raise in the federal minimum wage, and programs to expand early-childhood education and to make college more affordable.

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