Canada inks China trade deals, hails investor pact

Wed Feb 8, 2012 9:47am EST
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By David Ljunggren

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Canada on Wednesday signed a series of deals to boost modest levels of bilateral trade and finished negotiations on a foreign investment protection pact after 18 years of talks.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, keen to boost oil exports to China and thereby reduce reliance on the U.S. market, said the investment agreement would help increase trade.

"This is an historic step forward ... it will provide greater predictability and protection for Canadians seeking to do business in China," he told a news conference after talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Both nations will need to conduct a legal review of the deal and then sign and ratify it before it can take effect.

The relatively small amount of bilateral trade -- which amounted to less than C$60 billion ($59.4 billion) in 2010 -- shows how much potential there is for growth.

Harper said Canadian investment in China rose by 39 percent in 2010 from 2009 to hit nearly C$5 billion. Chinese investment in Canada the same year totaled $14 billion, an increase of 9 percent from 2009.

Harper wants to ramp up exports and reduce Canada's reliance on the huge U.S. market. He is particularly keen to increase exports of oil.

Ottawa intensified its calls to diversify exports last month after Washington vetoed a pipeline that would have carried crude from the western province of Alberta to Texas.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (centre, R) speaks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (centre, L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing February 8, 2012. REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool</p>