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Trudeau victory may bolster chances for FTA with China

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-10-21 18:39

Justin Trudeau's election as Canada's new prime minister probably improved prospects for a free trade agreement with China, observers said.

Trudeau, 43, the oldest son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau who led Canada for more than a decade, will become the second-youngest prime minister in Canadian history following Monday's election, which also saw his Liberal Party win a majority of seats in Parliament.

"I am confident that a Trudeau government will look very closely at China's proposal to establish a free trade agreement (FTA) with Canada and that this will likely be realized before the next election four years from now," said Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat in China who is a professor of political science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Gregory Chin, professor of political economy at York University in Toronto, said the door is open wider for an FTA than under previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party.

"I think the chances are better for an agreement," Chin told China Daily in an interview. "However, it will be very challenging for Canada to enact a free trade agreement with China. There are opportunities and also risks that have to be addressed. China is much bigger than Canada."

"I think there may be a willingness on the part of the new government to review an FTA," said Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. "I also think Canada may take another look at the AIIB (China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) after passing on it the first time around."

Chin said that the China relationship with Canada under Harper started off cold and ended up "slightly warmer." The Harper government negotiated a foreign investment treaty and in 2014 a reciprocal currency agreement that made Canada the first country in the Americas to have a deal to trade in the yuan.

"We will see a shift in tone as the new government rethinks every dimension of the relationship. Canada will recognize that it is now dealing with a China that is changing economically and in turn is changing the global economy as well," Chin said.

Burtonsaid while it is unlikely that the new Trudeau government will have a different policy on Canada – China immigration, Trudeau has been very clear that it will be a priority for his government to encourage much higher levels of Chinese trade and Chinese investment in Canada. "I expect that he will direct the Canadian government to proactively respond to the suggestions of the Chinese authorities on how to make Canada a much more attractive investment venue for Chinesestate enterprises," Burton said.

Chin believes that Beijing will look more fondly on a Liberal government. "History has shown - going back to Trudeau's father - that a Liberal government has been more open to China," he said.

Houlden of the China Institute expects the Trudeau government to initiate changes in the relationship with China. "I believe the new government will definitely have a more positive outlook on China than the previous one," he said.

In 1968, the government of then Prime Minister Trudeau began negotiations with China that led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In 1973, Trudeau became the first Canadian prime minister to pay an official visit to China.

paulwelitzkin@chinadailyusa.com

 

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