China’s Li Keqiang says Beijing is set on path to free-trade deal talks with Canada

  • Li Keqiang and Justin Trudeau meet at Asean summit to discuss way ahead for relations
  • Canada sees no impediment to China deal after signing up for USMCA
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 7:56pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 9:49pm

China said it will continue pursuing negotiations with Canada on a free-trade deal after assurances that a recently settled North American trade agreement would not stop Ottawa from signing deals with other countries.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday that the two nations were important partners and should strengthen trade ties.

“We have noticed that Canada has made clarification on a new trade agreement reached among the United States, Mexico and Canada, saying that the agreement will not affect Canada’s decisions on free-trade agreements with other countries,” Xinhua quoted Li as saying.

US and Canada reach last-minute deal to save Nafta, rename it USMCA

Uncertainty had surrounded Beijing’s hopes to negotiate a free-trade deal with Ottawa, as Canada completed its negotiations with the US and Mexico.

The deal, known as USMCA, stipulated that if a member country entered a free-trade deal with a non-market economy, it has to notify the other members three months before negotiations begin. The other members can quit within six months to form their own bilateral trade pact.

China is seen as a non-market economy, and the clause is regarded as an attempt by the US to restrict its partners from signing trade deals with Beijing.

Li and Trudeau met when the Canadian prime minister visited the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Singapore.

Canada’s International Trade Minister Jim Carr said after the meeting that the Canadian government was interested in having a deal that helped female entrepreneurs, indigenous peoples and promoted other Canadian values, Canadian Press reported.

On Tuesday, Carr said Canada was exploring a variety of sector-specific trade pacts with China that could form the basis of a comprehensive agreement.

He said Canada was involved in talks on a number of products in which China was interested, including energy and agricultural goods.