Canada takes tougher line with China over canola export dispute
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada hardened its line with China on Wednesday in a dispute over Canadian canola exports, saying bilateral relations could not improve until Beijing took action to settle the matter.
Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland made the remarks in an interview just days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to visit Beijing on a trip designed to deepen economic and political ties.
China says that starting on Sept. 1, it will toughen its inspection standard for canola over concerns about the crop disease blackleg, threatening C$2 billion ($1.6 billion) in Canadian exports of the oilseed.
Freeland, stressing she felt Ottawa had addressed Beijing's concerns, said she was "pushing very hard on this" and would be raising the matter with Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng by phone later on Wednesday.
"It's important ... the Chinese understand this is not some side issue. This is a priority issue for Canada," she said, noting that when the Liberal government came to power last year, Trudeau instructed her to expand trade with China.
"We cannot take the next step in our relationship with China until the canola issue is resolved. ... We expect some action from China. Our canola is absolutely safe," she added.
Canada is the world's biggest exporter of canola, used mainly to produce vegetable oil.