Trade dispute, policy divisions hang over Trudeau trip to China

Mon Aug 29, 2016 4:42pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit Beijing this week seeking deeper ties with China but a trade dispute, government divisions over China policy and the case of a detained citizen could limit his gains.

China welcomed last year's election victory by Trudeau's Liberals, recalling fondly that his father Pierre Trudeau was prime minister when Canada formally established relations with Beijing in 1970.

But nostalgia will only go so far in discussions over contentious issues after Trudeau arrives in Beijing on Tuesday at noon (1600 ET) in one of his biggest foreign policy tests so far.

China, the world's second-largest economy, is expected to try to sell Trudeau, who left for China on Monday, on a free trade treaty similar to the pacts Beijing has sealed with Australia and New Zealand.

But there is no near-term chance of agreement, a senior Canadian government official told reporters last week.

"We're looking to deepen trade with China, though no decision has been made on any kind of formal free trade agreement at this point," the official said.

Well-placed sources said last month there were divisions inside Ottawa as to how much Canada should open its markets and economy to China. One person directly involved in the matter said this was still the case.

"The government is effectively paralyzed over its China policy," the source said.   Continued...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the crowds outside Rideau Hall after the Cabinet's swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo