A bad strategy would be better than no strategy on China: John Baird
A former federal foreign affairs minister is urging the Trudeau government to make things right with China as tensions mount between the two countries.
“The first thing I would do in terms of Canada-Chinese relations is: Stop making it worse,” said John Baird, senior business advisor at Bennett Jones LLP and former foreign affairs minister under Stephen Harper between 2011 and 2015.
“Stop digging when you get to this type of position. The relationship has really soured.”
Relations between Canada and China have deteriorated in recent months, exacerbated recently by Chinese bans on Canadian meat and canola, the detention of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last year and the subsequent arrests of two Canadians living in China.
Meanwhile, Genworth Financial Inc. announced Monday it is seeking a buyer for its stake in Genworth MI Canada Inc., as Ottawa continues to drag its feet on approving the mortgage insurer’s proposed sale to Chinese conglomerate China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co. Ltd.
Baird said the federal government has lacked a strategy for dealing with Beijing so far.
“Even a bad strategy would be better than no strategy,” Baird said.
“But, the relationship continues to deteriorate, month after month, and that’s obviously not in the long-term interest of Canada. We don’t want China to be a new Cold War between our two countries. We want a warm, robust relationship.
“Yeah, go in with eyes wide open. Don’t mistake that we have the same values. We have very different values, but I think we do have aligned interests, particularly when it comes to economic growth.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping over the release of the two detained Canadians on Friday at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Trudeau told reporters after the meeting that his government recognizes that “Canada and China are going through a challenging moment right now.”
Baird noted that the relationship between the two nations flourished not too long ago.
“This relationship in 2015 was very warm, very strong. We were getting a lot done. And, it’s really deteriorated,” he said, pointing to the federal government’s decision to block CCCC International Holding Ltd. from acquiring Canada’s Aecon Group Inc. last year, as well as a clause in the new NAFTA deal that calls on member countries to notify each other if they enter into trade talks with a “non-market economy.”“Canada was to launch free-trade discussions back in December , and they didn’t. When the Prime Minister demanded this progressive trade agenda, the Chinese literally sent him home packing,” Baird added.