Federal Tories critique lack of action on China

A building housing offices of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank in Beijing. (AIIB.org)

MarketsFarm — Federal Opposition House Leader Candice Bergen has publicly ripped the federal government’s lack of action to deal with rising barriers against Canada’s substantial ag exports to China.

China halted imports of Canadian meat effective Tuesday, the latest on the list of Canadian products China has blacklisted since the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

“The Liberal government has failed on their foreign affairs policies, and because of that we are vulnerable to bullying tactics like we’re seeing from China,” Bergen, a south-central Manitoba MP, told the Global Cash Crop Conference Wednesday in Winnipeg.

China has indicated no interest in coming to the table to talk trade, but has encouraged Canada’s justice minister to immediately end extradition proceedings against Meng, who was detained in Vancouver on a U.S. warrant and remains in that city under house arrest.

“Sitting in the fetal position hoping they won’t hurt us anymore is not a strategy,” Bergen said.

A Conservative government, if elected in October, would “press the reset button” on Canada’s relationship with China, she said, emphasizing China is “not a trusted trade partner.

“When you’re dealing with a partner you cannot fully trust, you have to approach the situation differently.”

Bergen said a Tory government would also launch a complaint against China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) — typically a lengthy, litigious process, which would hopefully result in the WTO finding a resolution between the two countries.

The Tories’ agriculture critic, Quebec MP Luc Berthold, tweeted Tuesday that Trudeau should also “personally raise (the meat trade) issue with (China’s) President Xi Jinping and demand that he remove these non-tariff trade barriers” during G20 meetings which begin Friday in Osaka, Japan.

Bergen and other federal Tories have said Canada could also choose to stop payments on its five-year contribution, estimated at about $500 million, to the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

AIIB is a Beijing-based international development bank set up in 2016 to help fund infrastructure work in Asia. Canada today has one of 12 director seats on the bank’s board, where it’s represented by Paul Samson, an associate assistant deputy minister in the federal finance department.

According to the finance department, Canada’s participation in the AIIB has “helped to promote inclusive global economic growth.”

“Being a small country, we have to recognize what our levers are,” Bergen said Wednesday.

She also criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy foibles with other countries, citing Canada’s chilly trade relationship with India and the new North America free trade deal known as USMCA, or the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“Canada made a lot of concessions, and really got nothing,” she said.

— Marlo Glass writes for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting. Includes files from Glacier FarmMedia Network staff.

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