Federal Trade Minister Ed Fast is spending his Thanksgiving weekend in China to drum up trade, part of a renewed effort by the Conservative government to strengthen ties with Beijing.
Fast said last week, after a visit to Indonesia and Japan, that Canada is close to reaching a key trade agreement with the world's fastest-growing economy. The trade minister said he is hopeful that negotiations on a foreign investment and protection agreement with China will be completed soon.
On Sunday, Fast paid a visit to a BMO ChinaCo branch in Guangzhou branch and the headquarters of tech company Huawei in Shenzhen.
In a release, the company said it employs about 400 people in Canada, adding it has committed $67 million over the next five years to further develop its research and development facility in the Ottawa area.
Fast's visit to China could set the stage for a trip to the country later this fall by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his second since taking office in 2006.
The previous Liberal government had actively strengthened ties with China, but Harper irritated the Chinese government in 2007 by meeting with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader routinely reviled by the Chinese government for trying to split Tibet from China.
Harper's visit to China in 2009 appeared to improve relations and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited China earlier this year, saying he wants to continue to build the new relationship.
A report from CIBC World Markets, released last week, noted that Canadian exporters are adapting to the global economy's shifting centre away from the U.S. and Europe.
China is the world's second-largest economy and a major buyer of Canadian resources — from coal and fertilizer to grain and lumber — while Canadian businesses have been seeking a firmer foothold in the world's emerging economic superpower.