The Current

Trudeau's China visit: What's at stake?

The trip comes at a critical time for international trade relations given the uncertainties around NAFTA.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set to meet this weekend to talk trade. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Read Story Transcript

Trade and human rights are on the agenda as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads to China this weekend to meet President Xi Jinping.

"Canada has to take China seriously, and I think that's what the government now recognizes very clearly," Hongying Wang, an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, told The Current's guest host Susan Ormiston.

"China is the second largest economy in the world, and it's growing so fast that it's only a matter of years ... that it will be the biggest economy in the world."

As Canada's second largest trading partner, China's a very important economic partner for this country, said the co-editor of Enter the Dragon: China in the International Financial System.

As Canada's second largest trading partner, China's a very important economic partner for this country, according to University of Waterloo's Hongying Wang. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

China and trade

The uncertainty over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) gives Canada extra incentives to be more engaged with Asia and China, according to Hongying.

The U.S. is Canada's largest trade partner, but China accounts for about four per cent of Canada's merchandise exports — and it's likely to grow, said Hongying.

China and human rights

It (China) has become — if anything — more resistant to foreign pressure.- Hongying Wang

Last year, China detained a B.C. couple who owned wineries in Canada over a customs dispute.  John Chang and his wife Allison Liu have not been able to return home. Their daughter Amy Chang wants Trudeau to push hard for their release.

Lulu Island winery owner John Chang and his wife Allison Liu were detained in China last year. (Lulu Island Winery)

"I would like the PM to protect and defend any business overseas, and since he's going to China, I would expect that he delays any trade talks before getting my parents back home safely in Canada," said Amy Chang.

A coalition of Canadian human rights groups led by Amnesty International has urged Trudeau to present 16 cases in his meeting with Chinese officials.

Hongying Wang, however, isn't optimistic about any development on human rights questions.

"China's leadership has consolidated its power, and because of China's vastly important economic status in the world, it has become — if anything — more resistant to foreign pressure."

Hongying said she doesn't expect anything specific to come out of the meeting in terms of starting free trade negotiation.

"I think it would lay the ground for the start of the negotiation if that's what both sides would like to see, and then specific negotiations will be left to the experts later."

Listen to the full interview at the top of the post, and hear from Diana Fu, an assistant professor of Asian politics at the University of Toronto, about Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This segment was produced by Yamri Taddese and Halifax network producer Mary-Catherine McIntosh.