OTTAWA – Deepening its strategic partnership with China will help Canada recover from recession, Foreign Minister John Baird told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Baird made the remarks as he recalled the progress in the bilateral relationship during his July visit to China, the first official overseas visit since he took up the current job.
“This was a good opportunity to meet and begin building strong interpersonal ties with my counterpart, Minister Yang (Jiechi),” he said. “We have an obvious difference of opinion on a few issues, but we have built a strong foundation to have frank, open and respectful discussions.”
Baird, 42, who had visited China in 2009 as minister of transport, infrastructure and communities, said he hopes people see his latest China trip as a continuation of the growing bilateral relationship.
“I was struck by the amount of growth China has seen in such a short period of time,” he said. “Just two years separated my visits, yet I noticed tremendous infrastructure growth in both Shanghai and Beijing. I thought things happen so quickly here.”
Strategic partnership evolves
Baird said that Canada’s strategic partnership with China, which was established in 2005, has brought about benefits for both countries and the evolution of this relationship is obvious.
“Canada attaches great importance to our relationship with China,” he said, “Our relationship is experiencing positive momentum, and we continue to find avenues of cooperation, expand people-to-people ties, and grow our trade and investment relationship. We are happy with the progress we’ve made in our relationship, but there is always much room to grow. We can expect to continue to enjoy the shared advantages of our closer ties going forward.”
“We are strategic partners. There is much Canada can do for China, just like there is much China can do for Canada. We’re working on identifying these things, making them happen and forging closer bonds in the meantime,” he added.
Baird said a bilateral strategic working group, which last met in February 2010 in China, will meet again soon.
“The group focuses its work in three areas: multilateral cooperation including governance, natural resources and energy, and trade and investment,” he said.
Trade,investemrnt with China important to Canada
At a time when the world has not fully recovered from the ongoing economic recession, especially the United States is caught in a debt crisis, Baird said that China is playing a more important role in the economy of Canada, where the recovery is still fragile.
“China was the only major export destination where our merchandise exports continued to climb through the crisis year of 2009, even while our exports to some other countries fell below pre-recession levels,” he said.
“Increasing trade and investment with China will be an important contribution to Canadian government’s top priority to create jobs and complete the economic recovery. That is our number one focus.”
On the sector of trade, Baird said that trade between the two countries has more than tripled between 2001 and 2010 with merchandise trade reaching 57.7 billion Canadian dollars ($58.4 billion) last year.
“Canada is a very strong producer and exporter of resources to China,” he said.
On the sector of investment, Baird said many of the big Canadian firms like Bombardier, Manulife, BMO are doing well in the Chinese market and there has been tremendous growth in Chinese investment to Canada.
“We’re working very hard to ensure that we continue to see positive signs,” he said.
Recognizing that strong economic and trade complementarity exists between Canada and China, both countries agree that practical cooperation should be enhanced to promote increased bilateral trade and investment, and create new science and technology partnerships that will lead to jobs, prosperity and economic opportunities for Canadians and Chinese alike, he said.
“Measures taken include the launch of an economic complementarity study, the negotiation of a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) and the establishment of joint working groups on cleantech, infrastructure, and energy under the Joint Economic and Trade Committee and Strategic Working Group,” he said, “We hope that these measures will far exceed all of our expectations for bilateral trade between our countries.”
Baird attached great importance to people-to-people ties.
“These people-to-people ties shouldn’t be underestimated. They will not only help businesses understand each other better, but also average hard working Chinese and Canadian families,” he said.
On tourism, Baird said that since China granted Approved Destination Status to Canada, bilateral travel has increased tremendously and Chinese travellers injected 317.3 million Canadian dollars ($321 million) into the Canadian economy in 2010, up 21.5 percent from 2009.
On education cooperation, Baird said that China is a priority market for Canada’s education sector, and will remain a priority for the foreseeable future.
“Educational services are the largest export sector to China,” he said, “Twenty-eight percent of all international students in Canada are from China, the largest national group.”
He said Canada also encourages its students, the future decision makers, to have a first-hand experience in China by living and studying in the country, and learning its culture and language.
On justice cooperation, Baird said that Canada should not be a haven for those who commit serious offences. He promised that Canada is willing to work with China to further strengthen cooperation in the field of anti-corruption in an effort to deport residing fugitives and prevent new arrivals of fugitives from China.