World

Trudeau Does Damage Control Over Potential Free Trade With China

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief

Documents show how the Trudeau government is engaged in damage control over a potential free trade agreement between Canada and China, CBC News reports.

Before he became prime minister, Justin Trudeau described China as the country he “most admired” at a 2013 Liberal Party fundraising event.

The papers, obtained by CBC News from Global Affairs Canada through an access to information request, provide details on just how the Liberal government is preparing talking points to assuage the fears of a myriad of interests from business leaders who fear competition from cheap Chinese labor to human rights activists who are critical of China’s authoritarian and often brutal communist regime.

The strategy has been summed up by one former ambassador to China as a clever bit of marketing. David Mulroney calls the outreach program a “sales job.”

Canada has met with Chinese trade negotiations on a number of occasions since the Liberal government initiated trade talks early this year. Throughout that process, government representatives have been fanning out across the country and meeting with all groups that might oppose free trade with China, including associations representing business, industry, labor, non-governmental organizations and even first nations.

The documents suggest the federal government has found limited support for the free trade agreement because stakeholders have doubts that some issues can be resolved, including non-tariff barriers, consistent standards, preserving intellectual property and competing with a communist economy that is either owned or controlled by the state.

Mulroney says not only is the Trudeau administration demonstrating extreme naïveté in negotiating with China, but also it is willfully ignoring a host of issues that make any closer economic or political relationship with the communist colossus problematic and a moral tightrope.

“I think it’s failing to face up to how big a challenge engaging China is. China is changing day by day under its current president Xi Jingping. It’s becoming even more assertive, even more unfriendly to human rights advocates and those who value free speech, ” Mulroney told CBC News.

Mulroney was a career diplomat who was appointed ambassador to China by the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper. He represented Canada from 2009 to 2012 and now lectures at the University of Toronto.

“Getting China right is not a trade policy question. It’s a really complicated foreign policy question, one that’s much more complicated than anything we’ve dealt with in the past,” he added. “And the consultation document gives me no confidence that we’ve begun thinking along those lines.”

Among the documents obtained is a memorandum containing questions and answers about China and a potential free trade agreement with the country. The question, “How does Canada express its concerns about human rights in China?” is answered by telling the reader that Trudeau has brought up that very question on nine occasions when he was meeting with the Chinese leadership.

Mulroney is unimpressed.

“It’s not a strategy, it’s just ‘don’t worry we raise it.’ And that’s not enough,” he said.

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