January 8, 2008 / 2:26 PM / 10 years ago

Canada investment rules not aimed at China: minister

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s new foreign investment guidelines, which contain tougher criteria for state-owned enterprises, do not target China’s sovereign wealth fund, Trade Minister David Emerson said on Tuesday.

<p>Canada's Trade Minister David Emerson (L) shakes hands with China's Commerce Minister Bo Xilai before the start of a meeting in Ottawa May 28, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

Emerson, speaking to reporters via teleconference from Beijing, also said Canada will consider taking action against China at the World Trade Organization if China does not approve Canada as a tourist destination soon.

Industry Minister Jim Prentice late last year announced new guidelines to review takeovers of Canadian companies by foreign state-owned investors, and many speculated the move was aimed primarily at China, which has accumulated massive reserves that it is anxious to invest around the globe.

Emerson said the issue had come up in his talks with his Chinese counterpart, Chen Deming.

“I communicated to him that Canada is anxious to have Chinese investments in Canada, including investments of the China Investment Corporation,” Emerson said, referring to China’s sovereign wealth fund.

“The guidelines that Minister Prentice would be using in reviewing corporate buyouts by state-owned enterprises are designed not to discourage acquisitions by state-owned enterprises, but to ensure that when those companies acquire Canadian companies that they have governance systems and transparency arrangements in place and that they are operating as an economic, commercial corporation not as a political arm,” he said.

Emerson pressed Chinese officials to speed up the process of designating Canada as an approved destination for Chinese tourists, saying failure to do so appeared to be unfair discrimination.

“We really have got to the point where we really have to move it along in a meaningful way in a relatively short time frame or we will really have no choice but to explore the WTO option,” he said.

Chinese tourists are allowed to travel to over 100 countries, including the United States. That puts Canada at a huge disadvantage for attracting tourism dollars and could do “economic damage,” Emerson said.

Many believe that Canada’s outspoken criticism of China’s human rights record could have something to do with China’s delays, but Emerson declined to speculate on the reasons.

“Sure we’re hearing people express concern that there may be some atmospheric frictions out there that they’re a little bit concerned about it but (the Chinese) are wanting to move on,” he said.

Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Janet Guttsman

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