Chinese and Canadian firms signed 56 deals worth more than $1.2 billion at a ceremony on Thursday, Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said in Shanghai.

Freeland said Canada could be a great partner for China, but Ottawa officials are "taking our time" over a free trade agreement.

Chinese premier Li Keqiang said at a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday that both countries had agreed to start feasibility talks on a free trade pact at an early date.

The deals signed on Thursday involve companies in sectors from seafood to clean technologies, the trade minister said ahead of a speech by Trudeau.


Art of the deal

The Prime Minister's Office released a list of the deals. Here is a look at a few:

  • Alberta Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and BYD, the world's largest green vehicle manufacturer, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate on research, development, and commercialization of autonomous cars, trucks, buses and industrial vehicles.
  • Cows Creamery of P.E.I., which opened its first shop in Beijing in 2014 and another this summer, announced a strategic partnership with Yintai Group to introduce Cows stores to Yintai's high-end shopping centres and co-develop e-commerce and other projects across China.
  • Quebec's Cirque Éloize, together with Chinese promoter Shanghai Fresh Vogur, announced a second major tour in China, June to September 2017.
  • HyLife of Manitoba agreed on terms with JD.com to market Canadian pork products on the Chinese company's e-commerce platform. Revenues from the site sales are expected to reach around $6 million by the end of 2018. HyLife also plans to invest $90 million on the expansion of its plant and hire 165 more Canadian employees to address growing Chinese demand.
  • Linamar Corp. of Ontario announced that construction has begun on its wholly-owned, $118-million factory in Chongqing. The 26,000 square-metre facility, expected to be operational in late 2017, will manufacture energy-efficient power train components and assemblies for manufacturers in China's southwestern region.
  • Ontario's Sheridan College signed a co-development agreement with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre for a new musical based on the life of Norman Bethune. The Canada-China production will premiere in 2019.

A deep and effective economic relationship with China needed to be built consistently, thoughtfully and carefully, Freeland said.

Canola deal coming

The trade minister said an 11th-hour deal to delay new, stricter rules on canola imports was a meaningful and important step for Canada.

Starting Thursday, the Chinese government had planned to enforce tighter regulations on the amount of foreign materials — such as weeds, other crops and detritus — permitted in canola exports from Canada.

China is Canada's top export market for the oilseed, and Ottawa has taken a strong line in talks on a new standard, which may raise costs for exporters. Canadian farmers sold $2 billion worth of canola seed last year in China, about 40 per cent of the country's exports of the crop.

CHINA-CANADA/

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. (Wu Hong/Reuters)

Freeland said Canada is committed to reaching a long-term and permanent canola deal with China at an early date.

During the first leg of his China trip, Trudeau also announced plans to become the first North American member of the
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

China established the AIIB in hopes of building its economic credibility around the world. The bank will provide other countries in the region access to capital for projects like transportation, power and telecommunications.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who is travelling with Trudeau in Beijing, expects the bank to make an important impact on the global economy, and therefore the Canadian economy, through infrastructure investments.

Canada's application is due in September.

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With files from The Canadian Press