Edmonton

Alberta to proceed with China trade mission despite diplomatic tensions

Alberta will proceed with a planned trade mission to China in March, despite growing tensions between Canada and China over the detention of a high-profile business executive in Vancouver.

Strained relations between Canada and China won't change Alberta plans, minister says

Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous says Alberta will move ahead with a planned trade mission to China. (David Bajer/CBC)

Alberta will proceed with a planned trade mission to China in March, despite growing tensions between Canada and China over the detention of a high-profile business executive in Vancouver.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer for the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, was granted bail Tuesday as she awaits possible extradition to the United States to face fraud charges.

She is accused of misleading multinational banks about Huawei's control of a company operating in Iran, putting those banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.

After three days of hearings, a B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled that Meng will be released on $10-million bail.

Continuing to develop trade

Alberta Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous said the province will move ahead with plans to deepen its trade relationship with China, which at this point has not been directly impacted by the controversy unfolding in Vancouver.

"We know that they are an important partner for us, and so we'll continue working toward outcomes that will benefit both jurisdictions," Bilous said in an interview with CBC News.

There are no plans, he said, to cancel trade missions, which in the past have paired business and political leaders from Alberta with officials and potential business partners in China.

"Obviously our offices are in close contact with Chinese investors and companies, and so they're reporting their feedback to us at the moment," Bilous said.

With representatives in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, he said, Alberta has more trade offices in China than anywhere else in the world.

China is Alberta's second largest trading partner, so there is a lot riding on a continued good relationship, Bilous said.

Trade with China has tripled

According to information on the Government Alberta website, trade between Alberta and China has tripled since 2003, and has grown by 26.4 per cent since 2016.

Exports to China now account for $3.29 billion annually, with products ranging from alcohol to oil.

Bilous said what he called a "significantly sized company" has shown new interest in opening an e-commerce location at the Edmonton International Airport.

"That's their first jurisdiction or first location in North America," he said. "That's significant."

China has warned there will be "grave consequences" for Canada as a result of the current diplomatic spat.

Alberta's oil production cuts dominated the political agenda this week. The table was set on Sunday when Premier Rachel Notley ordered an oil production cut of 8.7 per cent starting Jan. 1, aimed at boosting the price of Alberta crude. 22:41

On Tuesday, the Canadian government confirmed a former Canadian diplomat had been arrested and detained in China without explanation.

On Sunday, Bruce Ralston, British Columbia's minister of jobs, trade and technology, issued a statement saying he would reschedule a planned meeting between China and his province's forestry trade mission.

He said the China leg of the mission had been suspended "due to the international judicial process underway."