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Ottawa expects trade interest in China to slow amid tensions with Beijing

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  • OTTAWA — Canada’s trade minister says the government expects Canadian business interest in China to slow given current tensions, but he is confident the two countries will work through their differences and allow economic ties to again flourish.

    That confidence is based on the long and complex trading relationship between Canada and China, which has continued despite a recent “difficult period” between the two countries, Jim Carr told The Canadian Press in an interview Sunday.

    “It’s not an easy time. It’s challenging,” Carr said from Vancouver, where he was set to launch a weeklong campaign to promote Canada’s newest trade deal, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP.

    But, he added, “when we add the perspective of the relationship going back decades, and the importance of the continuing relationship, I’m confident we will move beyond this point and continue to broaden and deepen our relationship with the Chinese.”

    Ottawa and Beijing have been locked in a diplomatic dispute since the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December at the request of the United States, which is seeking her extradition on fraud allegations.

    After her arrest, China detained two Canadians — former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor — on allegations of engaging in activities that endangered the country’s national security. It upgraded the drug-smuggling sentence of another, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, from 15 years in prison to the death penalty.

    The federal government has since increased its travel advisory for China by warning potential visitors about “the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.” Carr said he expects some Canadian businesses to steer clear of the country in the near term.

    “We think it’s likely that there won’t be the same kind of growth of travel and of these kind of exploratory visits that there might be if there were no tensions,” he said.

    However, he added that many Canadian firms are continuing to travel to China and “we are confident that we will work our way through this and return to a situation where people have no compunctions at all about visiting China.”

    Asked whether federal trade officials were continuing to talk to their Chinese counterparts about deepening economic ties, Carr said: “There are conversations that go on all the time and not only among officials, but among businesspeople.”

    American authorities laid out their case against Meng late last month, accusing her and Huawei of misrepresenting their ownership of a Hong Kong-based subsidiary between 2007 and 2017 in an effort to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran.

    The company’s U.S. branch was also accused of stealing trade secrets and equipment from cellphone provider T-Mobile USA.

    Meng, 46, has been free on bail since Dec. 11, living in one of her two multimillion-dollar homes in Vancouver while wearing an electronic tracking device and being monitored by a security company.

    Her case is due back in court in March.

    The federal government has been rallying support from allies to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor, with a number of countries issuing statements of support and emphasizing the importance of the rule of law.

    U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft issued a statement on Saturday saying her country was “deeply concerned” about China’s “unlawful” detention of two Canadians and calling for their release.

    — with files from the Associated Press.

    Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


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    PR firm suspends contract with former B.C. premier amid groping accusation

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  • VANCOUVER — A global communications marketing firm says it is suspending its contract with former British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell in light of an allegation in a British newspaper that he groped a woman in the United Kingdom.

    Edelman says in a statement that Campbell has served as a special adviser to the firm since last July, and was engaged on a part-time basis as a consultant through a retainer agreement.

    However, the company says it and Campbell have “mutually decided to suspend their consulting arrangement” until a police investigation in the United Kingdom is complete.

    On Friday, the Daily Telegraph reported that London police are investigating a complaint from a woman who was an employee at the Canadian High Commission when Campbell was high commissioner to the U.K.

    The newspaper says the complainant alleges she was groped in 2013 and filed a complaint with police in January.

    The Metropolitan Police in London could not be reached for comment on Friday or Saturday.

    Campbell also could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman issued the following statement on his behalf:

    “This complaint was transparently disclosed and became the subject of a full due diligence investigation at the time by the Government of Canada and was found to be without merit.”

    The Daily Telegraph story includes the woman’s name, but The Canadian Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their active consent and was not able to contact the woman.

    Campbell was premier of British Columbia from 2001 until 2011. He was appointed high commissioner to the U.K. in 2011 and left the diplomatic post in 2016.

    The Canadian Press


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    International rules must be enforced, Freeland says after Munich conference

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  • Canada will continue to meet with like-minded nations as it aims to bridge divides between countries at a time of simmering international tensions, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said from Germany on Saturday.

    The approach is necessary as Canada strives to reinforce the “rules-based international order,” Freeland said in a conference call with reporters as she wrapped up her time at the Munich Security Conference.

    “We also think we need to … bring together specific coalitions around specific issues,” she said, listing the Lima Group — which helped empower Venezuela’s opposition in its fight against President Nicolas Maduro — as an example of Canada doing just that.

    The group helped identify the politician Canada and its allies recognize as Venezuela’s real leader, Juan Guaido, as a contender to bring down Maduro’s regime.

    “There is now a very long list of countries who have recognized Juan Guaido as interim president,” she said. “That is a sign that the international community is coming together around democracy in Venezuela.”

    But she added that Canada is not — and should not be — leading the fight against Maduro.

    “This is a process led by the people of Venezuela,” she said. “They are the ones who need to win this effort. Our job as the international community is to support them, and that is very much what we’re doing.”

    She said that beyond seeking out like-minded countries, Canada will continue to name and shame those involved in human rights abuses, listing the country’s involvement in protesting the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as an example of such an approach.

    The federal government has appointed former Liberal MP Bob Rae as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar and pledged $300 million over the next three years to combat the crisis there. Last September, Parliament voted unanimously to strip Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, of her honorary Canadian citizenship for failing to stop the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people.

    Freeland’s public push for a rules-following international order also comes in the midst of an ongoing dispute between Canada and China, following what she called the superpower’s “arbitrary” detention of two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

    Freeland said the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig was central to her discussion with Rob Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, and is yet another example of nations rallying together.

    “The ICG has been a very important partner in working to build international support,” she said.

    Numerous countries — including Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., Australia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia — have spoken against the men’s detention. Earlier this week in Munich, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the American response had not been strong enough.

    Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press


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