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Why Canada thinks a China trade deal adds up

A deeper dive into the day's most important stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse.

A deeper dive into the day's most important stories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reviews the Chinese People's Liberation Army honour guard Monday during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE)

Welcome to The National Today, which takes a closer look at what's happening around the day's most important stories. Sign up here under "Subscribe to The National's newsletter," and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

Deal or no deal?

Officially, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to China is about "strengthening" Canada's trade relationship with the world's second-largest economy. But expectations were that the real purpose of the four-day trip was to announce the start of formal free trade negotiations.

Things have not gone according to script, however.

A meeting between Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing today dragged on much longer than anticipated, and ended in a very low-key fashion. No joint announcement, no news conference, and perhaps no progress.

A meeting Monday between Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, ended with no joint announcement on trade. (Fred Dufour/Reuters)
It's not clear what the hiccup is, but many observers still believe a trade deal with China is a matter of when, not if. After all, the two countries have already held four rounds of exploratory talks over the past year.

Canada is trying to become the first G7 nation to secure a bilateral trade deal with China — a move that contrasts with America's attempts to tear up such agreements under Donald Trump.

Here are some numbers to keep in mind:

$14.8 trillion: China's annual GDP vs. Canada's $2 trillion.

1.382 billion: China's population. Canada is home to 35.1 million.

$45.988 billion: Canada's trade deficit with China in 2015. We exported $19.66 billion worth of goods and services, while importing $65.65 billion.

2: China's rank as a Canadian trading partner, behind only the United States. Back in 1997, when bilateral trade was worth only $8.7 billion, China ranked 4th.

Canada is trying to become the first G7 nation to secure a bilateral trade deal with China. (Fred Dufour/AP)

$12,936.70: Average annual wage in China in 2016. Up from $4,773.46 in 2007.

$49,504: Average annual wage in Canada in 2016. Adjusted for inflation, the figure has barely budged since the 1970s.

11: The number of countries China already has free trade agreements with, including Switzerland, Iceland, Costa Rica, Peru and Pakistan.

$20 billion: The value of annual trade between New Zealand and China in 2016, a threefold increase since the two countries sealed a trade deal in 2008.

$88.12 billion: The value of Australia's trade with China in 2015, up from $6.62 billion in 2000. The two countries signed a trade deal in Dec. 2015.

Canada exported $19.66 billion worth of goods and services to China in 2015, while importing $65.65 billion. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

3.95 per cent: The unemployment rate in China.

5.9 per cent: The unemployment rate in Canada, the lowest figure since 2008.

$1,135 US: The average monthly wage in Shanghai. In comparison, the average monthly wage in Croatia, which joined the European Union in 2013, is $887 US. In Lithuania, which joined the EU in 2004, it's $956 US.

11.4: Computers as a percentage of total Canadian imports from China.

14.2: Wood pulp as a percentage of total Canadian exports to China.

Death of a dictator

Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seen here speaking in Sanaa in September, was killed by Houthi rebels on Monday. (Hani Mohammed/Associated Press)

Ali Abdullah Saleh's time as a would-be peacemaker was remarkably short-lived.

On Saturday, Yemen's former president, who had been battling to retake the job he was forced out of in 2011, suddenly decided he was done with the civil war. Speaking on local TV, Saleh offered to "turn the page" on the fighting if the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's government agreed to lift a food blockade and halt its own attacks.

But this change of heart did not sit well with the Houthi rebels whom Saleh had been fighting alongside. Over the weekend, there were heavy clashes in the capital of Sanaa, and Saleh's home was reportedly destroyed. Then today, rebels caught the former president trying to flee to the city of Marib and executed him on the spot.

Footage circulating on social media shows the 75-year-old strongman's body being carried in a gaudy floral blanket. There is a bullet hole in his forehead, and a gaping exit wound behind his left temple. Saleh's own General People's Congress Party confirmed his death.

Houthi militants in Sanaa, Yemen, react to news of the death of Ali Abdullah Saleh on Monday. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)
Houthi-controlled media released a statement celebrating the "end of the crisis of the treason militia and the killing of its leader."

What does this all mean for the 20 million Yemenis who are suffering food shortages — eight million of them on the brink of famine, according to the UN? The likely answer, unfortunately, is not much.

Saleh's alliance with the Houthis was very much a marriage of convenience. While in power, he had battled the minority Zaidi Shia for years, brutally putting down a series of uprisings between 2004 and 2010. And it was only after he was forced to cede power to his deputy, current President Abrabbuh Mansour Hadi, that he decided that the country needed more enlightened government.

Houthi fighters have been clashing with forces loyal to Saleh. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)
The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates — the lead partners in a coalition backing Hadi — are not in favour of any peace that would strengthen Houthi-backing Iran's hand in Yemen. So the fighting, and the civilian suffering, will continue.

Not much food was getting into the country before the Houthis launched a missile at Riyadh's airport, Nov. 3. (A second missile was reportedly directed at a nuclear plant in UAE this past weekend.) But now, the blockade of sea and air ports is almost total.

At least 8,670 people have been killed since the Saudis and UAE intervened in Yemen in 2015, many in coalition airstrikes. An estimated 50,000 have been wounded.

At least 8,670 people have been killed and an estimated 50,000 wounded since the Saudis and United Arab Emirates intervened in Yemen in 2015, many in coalition airstrikes. (AFP/Getty Images)
A cholera outbreak that has touched almost 1 million people has left a further 2,200 dead.

On Sunday, the World Health Organization warned that the blockade may soon make the crisis even worse, as fuel shortages hit hospitals and stop municipalities from pumping clean water.

Before the renewed fighting broke out in 2015, Yemen was already one of the poorest nations in the region, ranking 168 out of 188 countries on the index for human development. The average life expectancy then was just 64.

Deal or no deal? (Part Two)

An anti-Brexit protester waves EU and Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Monday. Reports say Prime Minister Theresa May has made a significant concession to the EU regarding Northern Ireland. (Simon Dawson/Reuters)
The U.K. seems to be nearing a deal on leaving the European Union, although the departure is starting to sound more like a trial separation than a divorce.

Word leaking out of negotiations in Brussels today suggests that Prime Minister Theresa May has made a significant concession on the future status of Northern Ireland, allowing it to remain in the EU in "all but name."

Britain's Prime minister Theresa May said Monday she is "confident" that Brexit negotiations will conclude "positively." (Aurore Belot/AFP/Getty Images)
The euphemism being used is "regulatory alignment," but the practical meaning is clear enough — there would be no need to recreate a border between the North and the Irish Republic.

This all touched off an immediate reaction in other parts of the U.K. that aren't so keen on Brexit, with pointed Tweets from the first minister of Wales and Scotland, as well as the mayor of London.

May hasn't confirmed that the concession has been made — or indicated whether there are others to come. But at a Brussels news conference the prime minister did say she is "confident" that negotiations will conclude "positively."

There will be more meetings later in the week, and the U.K. would like to wrap up a deal before a European summit in 10 days time.

This stretch of road in Newry separates Northern Ireland from southern Ireland. The northern Irish border is the United Kingdom's only land border with the rest of Europe. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Still, a couple of very contentious issues remain on the table: The rights of EU citizens now living in Britainm and the final bill for the divorce.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker indicated once again today that there will be no discussion about a future trade relationship until the EU gets its money.

Quote of the moment

"Be advised, we witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location."

- A message sent by the crew of Cathay Pacific flight 893 in the early hours of Nov. 29. The airline revealed today that the packed plane, en route from San Francisco to Hong Kong, had a near miss with a North Korean missile off the coast of Japan.

This undated photo released by North Korea's central news agency purports to show the Nov. 30 test of the newly developed Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile. (KCNA/Reuters)

What The National is reading

  • Does the law prevent Canada from its killing 'terrorist travellers?' (CBC)
  • Ten arrested over murder of crusading Maltese journalist. (Malta Independent)
  • Thunder Bay police chief goes on trial. (CBC)
  • Heavy air pollution halts cricket test match in India, makes players violently ill.  (Guardian)
  • Billy Bush: Yes, Donald Trump, you said that -- on tape. (NY Times)
  • German Christmas market bomb was an extortion bid, not terrorism. (BBC)
  • As North Korea threat grows, U.S. scouting west coast for missile defense sites. (Reuters)

Today in history

Dec. 4, 2002: Polar bear rescued from Mexican circus

Kenneth had a tough life — captured in Manitoba, moved to Germany, and ultimately ending up under a hot-weather big top.

A zookeeper from Tacoma, Wash. tries to rehabilitate a polar bear rescued from grim conditions in 2002. 12:59

About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.