BEIJING (Reuters) - Canada has emerged largely unscathed from its brush with Beijing after Prime Minister Stephen Harper met the Dalai Lama in October, Canadian International Trade Minister David Emerson said on Monday.
Trade relations between the two countries remain healthy and there has been no suggestion from Chinese officials that they would punish Canada despite their anger over the exiled Tibetan leader’s visit, Emerson said.
“I don’t believe that it will fundamentally derail the relationship,” he told reporters at the start of a visit to China. “The relationship is strong and will get stronger.”
Beijing lashed out at Harper for “disgusting conduct” in 2007 after he met the Dalai Lama in his parliamentary office with television cameras and photographers present.
Beijing condemns the Dalai Lama as a separatist and presses world leaders to shun him.
After German Chancellor Angela Merkel met him, also last year, the Chinese government cancelled a series of high-level bilateral talks and German businesses voiced fears that their trade interests could be damaged.
However, Emerson said Canada stood on firm ground with China because of their long-standing trade partnership and deep contacts between the two societies, a credit to the many Canadians of Chinese origin.
“The reaction that I have received as the representative of the government of Canada has been very positive,” he said.
Two-way trade hit a record $42 billion in 2006, up 15 percent over the previous year, though the balance of exports tilted heavily in China’s favor.
Emerson said Canada had consistently underperformed over the past decade in generating exports to China and it had to look beyond its North American trading partners, the United States and Mexico.
He said he hoped China would sign an agreement to invest more widely in Canada and approve it as a tourist destination, two steps which would help smooth trade flows.
Reporting by Simon Rabinovitch; editing by Roger Crabb