There is no more sense in pursuing a trade deal with China, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne disclosed in an interview with The Globe and Mail, scrapping free trade discussions that were made in 2016.
The setback comes in the wake of deteriorating ties over the arrest of a Huawei executive and the detention of two Canadian nationals in what Canada views as clear retaliation. Meng has been fighting extradition ever since she was accused of bank fraud and violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. The two countries have never discussed trade since late 2018.
Canada's move to abandon trade negotiations makes the country the first G7 member state to approve a free-trade deal with the second biggest economy in the globe, marking an unprecedented policy turnaround for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration, which has lost the enthusiasm to return to the friendly ambiance it helped establish four years ago.
Champagne, for his part, has repeatedly denounced Beijing for its "assertive and coercive diplomacy," stressing that their first priority is for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig to be brought back home. The two were charged in China last June with espionage.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail Daily, Champagne said he does not "see the conditions being present for discussions (with China) to continue at this time," Times Now quoted the official as saying, adding that the "China of 2020 is not the China of 2016," Reuters reported.
The foreign affairs minister's comments indicate a souring tone toward Beijing, more in consonance with the U.S., Australia and some European nations, after extensive diplomatic efforts to ease frictions came to naught.
Champagne pointed out that all initiatives and policies that had been set in place (in 2016 with China) "needs to be evaluated," stressing that the Canadian government is studying all of the measures "with the lens of China of 2020," the Times disclosed.
In September 2016, Trudeau visited China and weeks after that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Canada to renew their relations in multiple areas, including joint armed forces drills.
Trudeau has come under heavy pressure from local detractors who claimed he was too accommodating to engage into concessions in exchange for more trade with Beijing.
Meanwhile, despite the worsening relations, China remains Canada's second biggest trading partner next to the U.S. As of July this year, Canadian exports to the mainland were up 24 percent while imports climbed 14 percent.