Wednesday December 06, 2017

Midweek podcast: Making sense of the drama in China

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media at a hotel in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Trudeau says his country has high hopes for a trade agreement with China, but won't be rushing into negotiations that could affect their economies for generations to come. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media at a hotel in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Trudeau says his country has high hopes for a trade agreement with China, but won't be rushing into negotiations that could affect their economies for generations to come. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

Listen to Full Episode 22:23

After a series of unexpected twists, could Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leave China with a deal to formally begin negotiations on what would be a ground-breaking free trade agreement between the two countries?

The prime minister wrapped up two days of high-level meetings in Beijing on Tuesday without the agreement that many observers expected.

"It was clear, I think I can say without any doubt, that there was a reason to come here, that they were close to reaching some kind of platform on which they could build the foundation of formal free trade negotiations," The House Chris Hall said from China, where he's covering Justin Trudeau's visit.

He pointed out that the sticking points appear to be Canada's insistence that labour and gender rights be part of any deal.

Trudeau acknowledged Tuesday that progress now is being measured in a series of piecemeal agreements that will, for example, increase Canadian exports of beef and canola, and improve bilateral co-operation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But it's impossible to say at this point what the timeline is when it comes to formally entering free trade talks.

That may be why International Trade Minister Fran├žois-Philippe Champagne told The House last week that: "This is the moment for us to consider all the options we have."