Canada ratifies China deal, may help smooth relations

Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:54pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has finally ratified a foreign investment protection agreement with China after a two-year delay in a step that may help ease tensions between the two countries and smooth the way for a possible visit to China by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast announced the ratification on Friday and said the agreement, designed to give investors greater legal certainty, would come into effect on Oct. 1. It was signed in September 2012.

Relations between Ottawa and Beijing have been strained by China's detention last month of Canadians Kevin and Julia Garratt on suspicion they stole state secrets and for threatening national security. The Garratts, who ran a coffee shop in Dandong on the border with North Korea, deny the charges.

The Canadians were detained less than a week after Canada accused Chinese hackers of breaking into a government computer network, a charge Beijing denied.

A Canadian government official, however, dismissed any connection between the Garratts and the foreign investment protection agreement (FIPA), noting that the agreement was important on its own merits for promoting trade.

"Announcing the FIPA, and consular issues, are separate things that are dealt with separately," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Chinese embassy declined to say whether the ratification could lead to freedom for the Garratts or to a Harper tour.

"The Chinese side is willing to work with the Canadian side to promote economic and trade cooperation to a new level, and further advance the development of China-Canada strategic partnership," said embassy spokesman Yang Yundong.   Continued...