BEIJING (Reuters) - Canadian and Chinese companies have signed trade deals worth more than C$2.5 billion, despite continued tension over the detention of two Canadians near the North Korean border.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the more than 20 commercial agreements signed between executives from both countries are expected to create more than 2,000 jobs in industries as diverse as aerospace, infrastructure, mining, energy and agri-food.
He also raised the case of expatriates Kevin and Julia Garratt, held by China for suspected theft of military and intelligence information and for threatening national security. The couple, long time residents of China, operated a coffee shop near the North Korean border.
At a news conference following the bilateral meetings between Harper and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who sits on the elite politburo standing committee of the ruling Communist Party, Li said China respected human rights.
"As for the case, I want to reiterate that China is a country ruled by law, and is developing its legal institutions. The judicial authorities in China will handle the case in accordance with the law. At the same time the legal rights and interests of the people concerned will be protected," Li said.
"The governments of the two countries have also discussed and negotiated visits by consular officials," he said.
Harper was silent on the sensitive Garratt issue during the news conference but a spokesman said later that he had raised the issue during his meeting with Li. In a speech earlier in the day to Canadian and Chinese business groups, Harper said Canada's prosperity is rooted in both economic freedom and respect for the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
The detention of the Garratts came less than a week after Canada accused Chinese hackers of breaking into a key computer network, the first time it has ever singled out China for such a security breach. Beijing dismissed the allegations as "irresponsible."
The headline deal was an agreement between China's and Canada's central banks to a currency swap worth 200 billion yuan ($32.67 billion) or C$30 billion.
That will help set up a clearing bank, and allow the two banks to swap currencies if needed to ease trade and investment. The yuan clearing bank would be the first in the Americas, and allow Canadian financial institutions to use it to process payments for their customers in yuan.
Harper said deals also included an investment agreement in the sustainable technologies sector between Canadian-owned Airborne China Ltd and Heilongjiang InterChina Water Ltd to cooperate on air pollution reduction projects in China.
Canadian-owned Plasco China signed an agreement with Shougang Group to bring Plasco’s waste-to-energy technology to China. Canadian-owned Kryton International Inc and Beijing Maple Real Estate Company Ltd Group reached a deal to use Kryton International Inc.’s environmentally-friendly waterproof concrete technology and products in the Chinese company’s development projects.
Editing by William Hardy