The House

Deal or no deal? Justin Trudeau heads to China with free trade decision up in the air

This week on The House, International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne explains why the federal government is still debating whether Canada will formally enter free trade negotiations with China on the eve of Justin Trudeau's official visit.
Canadian International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is heading to China with the Prime Minister next week. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The federal government is still debating whether to formally enter free trade negotiations with China on the eve of Justin Trudeau's official visit.

"This is the moment for us to consider all the options we have," International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne told The House.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office confirming the trip outlined how Trudeau plans to promote a progressive trade agenda and tourism initiatives, but made no mention of free trade.

The Liberal government has been debating for months whether to turn exploratory talks with China into a full-fledged negotiation.

Trade between the two countries has already reached $90B a year, and the temptation to do even more business with the world's second largest economy is strong. But China comes with particular challenges. 

"Canadians are very well aware of the challenges. People talk often about intellectual property, about state-owned enterprises," Champagne said.

The Trudeau government has also been pushing so-called progressive measures as part of its trade negotiations, including pushing for stricter labour and environmental standards. 

That could prove complicated with China.

But Champagne says his government will not be rushed.

"We're engaging with China on our terms, on our timetable, and with eyes wide open," he said.

The International Trade Minister says the federal government is still debating whether or not to formally enter free trade negotiations with China on the eve of Justin Trudeau's official visit. 11:08

Canada needs to reassure Japan ahead of China trip, says John Manley

John Manley is the President and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

Some business leaders worry Justin Trudeau's China trip might come with a cost, after the Prime Minister declined two weeks ago to sign the TPP - a trade deal that include Japan, Australia and eight other Pacific Rim nations.

Three weeks ago, the 11 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries reached an agreement on "core elements" of the trade pact, namely that all countries will adhere to strict labour and environment standards.

A final agreement in principle is still in the works because the countries have not settled on all aspects of the deal.

John Manley, the CEO of the Business Council of Canada, just returned from Japan, where Trudeau's China visit, and the possibility of free trade talks beginning, is viewed with alarm.

"I think the signal to the Japanese should be very clear... that this is not to the exclusion of the TPP," Manley told The House.

Manley encouraged Justin Trudeau to reach out to his Japanese counterpart to reassure him.

 "I think it would be a very easy thing for the Prime Minister to call Prime Minister Abe, and I think it needs to be the Prime Minister."

A spokesman for the PMO declined  to say whether Trudeau has called Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Chief Executive of the Business Council of Canada says the Prime Minister has to reach out to Japan before his trip to China, because of the tensions over the new Trans Pacific Partnership. 9:12


To compete with China, Canada must step up its innovation game, says Jim Balsillie

Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research In Motion, says he's pleased the federal government has defended Canada's interests in recent talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but warns Canada will have to "play shrewd" in any trade talks with China. ((Dave Chidley/Canadian Press))

The former co-CEO of Research in Motion is praising Canada's handling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, but warns Canada needs to up its innovation game if it wants to compete with China and other heavy-hitting economies.

In an interview with The House, Jim Balsillie said International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne deserves credit for recognizing how "toxic" the original TPP deal was to Canada's interests.

During last month's APEC summit in Vietnam, Canada and its 10 negotiating partners agreed to suspend most of its controversial intellectual property provisions, including those involving patents and copyright protection terms.

By convincing its partners to suspend those provisions, Balsillie said, Canada gave itself the room and flexibility needed to develop globally competitive intellectual property.

"I'm optimistic that this is a deal that's good for Canadian innovators and will allow us to generate the innovation economy that we have all the potential to do," he said.

Canada has some catching up to do. While competitors like the U.S. and Japan hold massive intellectual property stocks, Basillie said Canada has been reduced to an "IP pauper," having failed over the past 15 years to generate its own valuable intellectual property.

With signs the U.S. is gearing up for a fight on intellectual property as part of NAFTA negotiations, Basillie said it's critical Canada maintain its ability to compete.

"If we get locked out of this, I think the gap in our future prosperity is going to erode ever more greatly," he said. "'No deal' is better than a bad deal."

The former co-CEO of Research in Motion is praising Canada's handling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, but warns Canada needs to up its innovation game if it wants to compete with China and other heavy-hitting economies. 8:45

As for the prospect of a free trade deal with China, Balsillie suggested Canada take a page from that country's playbook.

"China did in the last ten years what Canada should have done," Balsillie said, pointing to the growing superpower's position as a world leader in artificial intelligence and clean technology.

"They're formidable and we're going into an engagement with them," Basillie said. "We've got to play shrewd."

Fix First Nations child welfare system now, says Cindy Blackstock

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

A leading First Nations children's advocate is hailing Ottawa's decision to abandon its legal challenge on First Nations child welfare, but warns she will remain vigilant until the government delivers on its commitment.

"I have always measured this on whether a little kid actually can go in and get the health care that they need… whether they can go to a school that doesn't have black mould contamination," Cindy Blackstock told The House. "None of us should be satisfied or patting ourselves on the back until that happens for every single kid in the country."

Blackstock is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

In 2007, she and the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, alleging that Canada was discriminating against First Nations children by underfunding child welfare services on reserve.

In January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal sided with Blackstock and the AFN.

The tribunal has since issued three compliance orders, demanding the federal government fully implement Jordan's Principle — a resolution passed in the House of Commons in 2007, affirming that the health care needs of First Nations children must take precedence over jurisdictional disputes between the federal and provincial governments.

The Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada talks about Ottawa's decision to drop a judicial review to a Human Rights ruling on First Nations child health care. 6:35

The Trudeau government had said it would seek "clarity" from the Federal Court on the tribunal's latest compliance order, but Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott announced Thursday that an agreement had been reached with the parties to the case.

While Blackstock welcomed the government's decision, she said it must be followed by nothing less than full compliance with Jordan's Principle.

"Let's get this behind us," she said. "Let's raise a generation of First Nations kids — for the first time in the history of this country — that actually get the same level of services that every other kid enjoys."

In an interview with The House, Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott said she shares Blackstock's goals.

"We want to make sure that there is no First Nations, Inuit or Métis child in this country that's not getting the access to the care that they need," she said. "When people talk directly together, it's amazing what happens."

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott has convened her provincial and territorial counterparts to an emergency meeting on Indigenous child welfare early next year. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Although Philpott conceded there's still much that needs to be done, she said the federal government has been working hard to ensure First Nations children receive the services they need, adding that 24,000 Jordan's Principle cases have been approved over the last 18 months.

Now a few months into her mandate, Philpott told The House she has been encouraged by her interactions so far with Indigenous people across the country.

"The solutions are in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities," she said. "We as a government and as Canadians need to provide the support to recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples. I really believe this is fundamental to our success as a country going forward."

The federal and provincial governments will have an opportunity to discuss some of those solutions when they meet early next year at an emergency meeting on Indigenous child welfare convened by Minister Philpott.

As for Blackstock, she said it's high time the federal and provincial governments address the inequalities facing First Nations children once and for all.

"This isn't an issue that just sprung up. It's been something that's lingered and piled up on hopes and dreams of generations of First Nations kids," she said. "Children only get one childhood. Fix it today."

The Minister of Indigenous Services discusses the gaps that remain in the services available to First Nations children. 6:59