Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) walks with China's President Hu Jintao in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 24, 2010. [Agencies]
$60b by 2015 targeted; China-Canada deals set to boost ties
OTTAWA - China, the world's largest exporting country, will work with Canada to double their trade to $60 billion by 2015, visiting President Hu Jintao said in the Canadian capital on Thursday.
"I have agreed with Prime Minister Harper that we should take active measures to make our countries' two-way trade volume reach a target of $60 billion by 2015," Hu said in Ottawa.
Bilateral trade last year totaled $29 billion.
Hu made his remarks during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Canadian Conservative government, which has been working toward better ties with Beijing, is now hosting the Chinese president for the first time during Harper's tenure.
Canada, which sends 75 percent of all exports to the United States, is eager to diversify into other markets as the economic slump in the US has seriously affected its domestic demand.
China is Canada's second-largest trading partner, while Canada is China's thirteenth.
In the first four months of this year, bilateral trade hit $10.2 billion, an increase of 19 percent over the same period last year.
The two countries also struck a deal for China to grant Canada approved destination status (ADS), fulfilling a longtime wish of the Canadian authorities.
The agreement, which will enable Chinese citizens to travel to Canada in organized, pre-sold tour groups, is expected to take effect and benefit the Canadian economy immediately.
Chinese authorities have given more than 134 countries the status, but Canada was not one of them. As a result, Canada sees fewer than 190,000 Chinese visitors a year from a country with more than a billion people.
The latest deal alone could boost Canada's tourist industry by $100 million a year, local industry insiders said.
"This is a great day for tourism in Canada and a great day for travelers from China," said David Goldstein, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.
Gordon Campbell, premier of Canada's western province of British Columbia, said the deal would result in "substantial economic benefits" for his province in the form of increased tourism revenues and job creation.
The provincial government has already been working on market campaigns to attract Chinese visitors, he said.
Beijing and Ottawa also signed several energy cooperative documents on Thursday, involving fields ranging from oil sand and nuclear energy to gas.
"Rich in natural resources, Canada will play an important role in China's energy security plans," said Xia Yishan, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies.
Canada also owns many advanced technologies in energy conservation and environmental protection, which is attractive to China, he said.
Zhang Xiaoqiang, deputy director of China's National Development and Reform Commission, said at an industry forum earlier this month that Chinese companies have showed increasing interest in the Canadian market in recent years.
He said the commission has approved $6.6 billion worth of Chinese investment to Canada by the end of last year, most of which are in natural resource projects such as oil and non-ferrous metals.
One of the agreements inked on Thursday also included quality quarantine, which insiders said could mean more Canadian food products being supplied to China.
The Toronto Sun reported on Thursday that the combined deals could mean hundreds of millions of dollars of new businesses for Canadian companies and farmers.
Beijing also urged Ottawa to extradite China's most wanted fugitive, Lai Changxing, who has lived in Canada for more than a decade.
Despite an agreement on cooperation between the Chinese police and the Canadian royal rangers, the two sides have not seen any breakthrough on Canada extraditing Lai, who was the main suspect of a major smuggling and corruption scandal in the late 1990s.
China demands that Canada send Lai back to the country to stand trial, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said at a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday. "The stance is coherent, clear and has never changed."
The two nations had vowed to strengthen cooperation on combating transnational crime and extradition in December, during Harper's visit to China.
Wan Zhihong, Wang Xing and Li Xiaokun contributed to the story.