Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Thursday exploratory talks on free trade will begin between Canada and China — with the goal of doubling trade between the two countries by 2025 — but a proposed extradition treaty is continuing to raise human rights concerns.

Among the bilateral agreements on economic issues signed today was a four-year deal allowing for Canadian canola to continue to be exported to China, a trade worth $2 billion, and the resumption of Chinese imports of bone-in beef from Canadian cattle over 30 months of age.

Trudeau touted Canada and China's "renewed" relationship, which would allow for "honest, regular engagement" on issues that were important and perhaps the source of disagreement between the two countries.

The proposed extradition treaty is raising concerns over the lack of due process in the Chinese justice system and the country's use of the death penalty and other forms of corporal punishment.

Trudeau defends extradition principles in QP1:25

Premier Li told reporters China's continued use of capital punishment is "consistent with our national conditions" and that torture is against the law and all cases are investigated.

"If we abolish the death penalty, more innocent people will probably lose their lives."

However, he said he "cannot promise" every prisoner in China is treated humanely, without torture, because China is such a large country. Li said there must be "consensus" between the two countries about repatriating people accused of crimes.

Trudeau said China and Canada had been talking about extradition and capital punishment for years and now have a formal forum to air these issues.

"We recognize that Canada and China have different systems of law and order and different approaches. And, it will be very important that any future agreement be based on reflecting the realities, the principles, the values that our citizens hold dear in each of our countries."

Trudeau told reporters at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday that Canada would have a "very, very rigorous process" to ensure that co-operating with China on the return of wanted fugitives didn't result in human rights abuses that don't comply with Canadian law.

Canadian Kevin Garatt, who was detained by the Chinese and charged with spying and stealing state secrets last January, was returned to Vancouver last week after being convicted, released on bail and deported.

His release coincided with the announcement that talks had started on an extradition treaty. 

Doubling Canada-China trade by 2025

Trudeau said Canada and China have agreed to searching for a "science-based" solution the the dispute over Canada's $2 billion trade in canola, which has seen the Chinese allege Canadian shipments are of inferior quality. Canada denies its crop, 42 per cent of which is shipped to the country, fails to meet adequate food safety standards.

The Chinese are suspected of wanting to put pressure on producers in the face of a worldwide surplus of the crop.

Trudeau outlines new Canada-China trade deals2:46

In the meantime, Canadian canola will continue to be exported to China until 2025, according to the prime minister.

China has agreed to resume importing bone-in beef from Canadian cattle under 30 months of age. China is one of the final few countries holding back from completely re-opening its market to Canadian beef imports following Canada's 2003 outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

These are some of the other bilateral agreements the two leaders announced, according to the Prime Minister's Office:

  • Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People's Republic of China signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on joint research, training and seminars to address the challenges of China's aging population, including pension reform and the promotion of investment in the domestic senior care industry from global investors.
  • A commitment from Sinoenergy Corporation Ltd. to support operations of the Long Run Exploration Ltd. facility in Alberta, an intermediate oil and natural gas company focused on development and exploration in Western Canada, by the injection of an additional $500 million over the next two years.
  • SNC Lavalin and CANDU Energy signed an agreement in principle for a new joint venture with China National Nuclear Corporation and Shanghai Electric Group Company Ltd. to develop, market and build the Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor AFCR. That would include design centres in both countries and allow contracts to build nuclear reactors around the world. 
  • Iovate Health Sciences International, Inc. of Oakville and Xiwang Food Stuffs Co. Ltd. signed a share purchase agreement worth $962 million.

The premier arrived in Ottawa with his wife, Cheng Hong, late Wednesday, following the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  It's the first official visit of a Chinese premier in 13 years.

The couple socialized with Trudeau and his wife Sophie on Wednesday evening at the prime minister's country residence at Harrington Lake.

The Trudeaus were in China last month, for an official visit of their own ahead of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou.