Canada needs to stop relying on the United States and come to the negotiating table when it comes to dealing with China, as tensions between the countries continue to mount, according to the chief executive officer of Birchcliff Energy Ltd.  

“It’s unfortunate from my perspective that we’re not at the table being part of these discussions. Instead, we are watching China and the U.S. negotiate a trade agreement and we’re on the sidelines watching,” Birchcliff CEO Jeff Tonken told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Monday.  

“I think we’re waiting for the U.S. to do something for us. To me, that’s not a policy. We need to, in my perspective, get our Canadian citizens out of jail. Get that canola being sold, get that pork being sold and then determine what steps we’re going to take.”

The Trudeau government has taken a relatively quiet diplomatic approach on handling its various disputes with China since the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in December. Since then, China has banned some Canadian canola imports, citing pests, which has led Ottawa to offer financial aid to farmers as they feel the impact from potential crop losses. More recently, China suspended the export permits of two Canadian pork producers.

Tonken said Canada’s approach on China isn’t working.

“We’re going bankrupt while people are talking about quiet diplomacy,” Tonken said. “We need to see results and lending farmers money while you, I guess, have quiet diplomacy doesn’t cut it because now you have a bunch of debt.”

China’s trade relationship with the U.S. is currently on ice as well. Global equity markets slumped Monday following a pair of tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump over the weekend that threatened to increase tariffs on Chinese imports. As a result, Bloomberg News reported China is now considering delaying its delegation’s trip to Washington, D.C. this week.

Tonken said instead of waiting for U.S.-China trade negotiations to play out, it’s time for Canada to “be in charge of our own destiny”

“We can’t rely on third-party countries to negotiate for us,” he said.  “We have a problem when we’re not at the table – and we need to be there.”