Canada is abandoning free trade negotiations with China amid a host of disagreements on a range of topics, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced.
“I do not see the conditions being present now for these discussions to continue at this time. The China of 2020 is not the China of 2016,” Champagne said about trade negotiations as quoted by The Globe and Mail. Canada’s top diplomat said Ottawa will review its policy towards Beijing and will do so through the “lens of China of 2020”.
The comments mark a major policy shift towards China that brings Canada more in line with the hardline posture adopted by the United States, Australia and parts of the European Union.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office in 2015, his government signaled an interest in fostering deeper economic ties between the two countries. Trudeau visited Beijing in 2016 and soon after discussions began about a possible free trade agreement. Subsequently, Canadian and Chinese delegations charged with the negotiations met three times throughout 2017.
Relations between Ottawa and Beijing soured after Canadian authorities detained Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in 2018 at the request of the US, which was followed by the arrests of two Canadian nationals on charges of espionage in China. The tense relationship has been further exacerbated by Canada’s condemnation of the newly enacted Chinese law on national security in Hong Kong and a suspension of some bilateral agreements with the special administrative region.
Despite the tensions, China remains Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the US.