A view of the automated container terminal of Rizhao Port, in Shandong province, on Oct 9, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Economic and trade cooperation has been the cornerstone of China-Canada relations, and there is big potential to boost bilateral business ties in green finance, clean technologies, digital economy and other areas, Chinese and Canadian officials said.
To be sure, challenges remain, but a major hurdle for bilateral economic ties has been removed, with the safe return of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co, to China from Canada several weeks ago, they said.
Wang Shouwen, China's vice-minister of commerce, said in a speech via a video link at the 43rd Canada-China Business Council business dinner in Beijing on Wednesday that there is still big potential for boosting trade between China and Canada, and efforts are needed to seize the opportunities in global economic recovery to further expand bilateral cooperation.
Wang said Meng's return to China removed a major hurdle between China and Canada, but that does not mean bilateral ties will improve automatically.
Highlighting that relations between the two countries should be based on mutual respect and benefits, Wang called on the Canadian side to take a rational approach to building a pragmatic dialogue policy, resist protectionism and create a better environment for Chinese companies, including Huawei.
His comments follow reports that Canada will likely decide in the coming weeks whether or not to allow Huawei to participate in its 5G development.
Reuters reported on Sept 29 that Canada is likely to make a decision "in the coming weeks" on whether or not to ban Huawei from the build-out of its 5G telecom networks.
Bilateral trade stayed resilient amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching $76 billion in 2020, up 2.5 percent year-on-year. Trade with China accounted for 10 percent of Canada's foreign trade, according to data from Statistics Canada.
Chinese investment in Canada has created almost 30,000 jobs. The number of Huawei's research and development employees in Canada, for instance, rose by 25 percent to 1,500 amid the pandemic, Wang said.
Dominic Barton, Canadian ambassador to China, said in an interview with China Daily on the sidelines of the Wednesday event that Meng's release from Canada signifies that a major emotional issue is now off the table.
Barton cited an ancient Chinese poem to describe the relationship after Meng's case: "There are high mountains, wilding rivers and you can lose (your way), but in the shade of the willow tree, you can see the bright flowers and villages on the horizon."
There is great potential to boost bilateral economic cooperation in areas like environment, food security and elder care, though disputes remain, Barton said.
"For instance, clean tech has big growth potential as both countries are deeply passionate about the environment," Barton said, adding that China and Canada can learn from each other on how to better promote an energy transition.
Barton did not offer any comment on the reported upcoming decision by Canada on Huawei. Asked about prospects for bilateral cooperation in telecom, he said every country has its own security issues and security concerns should not be pointed at any particular country.
Steve Liu, vice-president of public affairs and communications at Huawei, said on Wednesday that Huawei will continue to increase investment and employment in Canada, where the company's businesses range from wireless communications, artificial intelligence to optical-fiber networks.
Liu said Huawei has been cooperating with the Canadian government on a security review program for more than nine years and the company hopes that any decision by Canada would be based on facts and evidence.
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