Better not to kowtow to China

It’s too bad China didn’t offer Canada everything Canadians had hoped for in the Prime Minister’s just-completed trip. Many were hoping that Canada and China would officially agree to beginning negotiations towards a free trade deal, but that frittered away with Justin Trudeau pushing labour and gender rights and some amongst the Chinese leadership appearing to think we should be crawling towards them, begging for favour.

But it’s great Canada isn’t leaping too fast into any deal with a country that really doesn’t seem to believe in free trade. We can negotiate deals all we want with China, and China can agree to all sorts of stuff that sounds great on paper, but as we’ve seen repeatedly with China, the country only grudgingly accepts trade rules, and only in order to advance selfish interests.

Does anybody really believe China’s concerns about blackleg are legitimate? Their sensitivity about the fungus seems to wax and wane based on domestic supply and demand of canola and rapeseed. The country blocks Canadian companies from investing in many parts of its economy, even though China’s companies can invest relatively freely in most areas of Canada’s economy. The country has little respect for the sort of intellectual property issues that are key to Canada’s future.

China might talk about being a supporter of trade, but it’s always in terms of negotiated trade. Often, when dealing with optimistic and naive free trading nations like Canada, it seems to take advantage of gullible partners. It grudgingly accepted World Trade Organization rules in order to get access to countries like Canada, but hasn’t been too true to the WTO spirit.

Apparently the Chinese have backed off from being too enthusiastic about embracing a trade deal with Canada because the Chinese leadership assumes Canada is desperate for a deal because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to tear up NAFTA and his administration’s other attacks on Canada’s economy.

It’s no doubt true that the federal government has been chasing after the Chinese for a deal as a bargaining chip to use against Trump’s actions and as a hedge against Canada’s never-ending over-reliance on the U.S. market. That’s why there’s such a big push on to get Alberta crude to the Pacific coast and break free of reliance on the North American market. Channelling a bigger and bigger proportion of Canada’s exports to the Pacific Rim and especially the growing Chinese market seems a natural thing to do, and it’s something even your humble scribe here has called for in this blog space.

But the Chinese are showing they’re no better than Trump, and in the long term Canada can rely much more on fairer trading practices from a post-Trump U.S. than it ever will be from a China that presents itself as a free trader, but in fact has a mercantilist’s soul. It’s worth getting a trade deal with China, but it’s got to be a deal that helps Canada as much as it does China, and right now there’s no reason to believe China is willing to agree to something like that.

China presently sells about double the amount of stuff to Canada that Canada sells to China, so the country doesn’t need to panic if the Chinese seem to be growing cold. For farmers it’s obviously a more anxious situation, with canola sales Canada’s biggest export to China and canola’s biggest export market, and that country’s growing middle class showing wonderful potential for growing beef and pork consumption.

But making a naive free trade deal with China wouldn’t guarantee anything, so if we need to wait a while to make a deal that protects our exporters as much as it protects theirs, then so be it.

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Comments

  • JanetHudgins

    The Chinese culture is poles apart from ours which is why it’s so necessary to include clauses that are at least a compromise in protecting all human rights. Even then, we know opportunism rules with the Chinese, and everything made there, and marketed here, only makes all consumers uneasy. Rather than imply arrogance on Canada’s part, China might recognize its internationally recognized deplorable history of bad products, inhumane treatment of its own people and have the integrity to reverse its policies.

    Governments have accepted deals that deprive their own constituents of a decent, properly paid job, indeed uses them like inanimate tools. If this is the start of a new kind of trade, that’s just as it should be. Unfortunately, it won’t make up for the past misguided negotiations that impoverished on both ends of the deal.

    • חי חינם ג’ן

      I do not believe Chinese government ever forced Tibetan or any other ethnic minority group into residential schools. Tell them their cultures are inferior/savage-like, and give them terrible education, and sexually and physically abuse them. In fact, to this day, majority of Tibetans can speak, read, and write in their native language. How many First Nation people can do that in Canada? Speaking of labour rights. Chinese workers in manufacture jobs sacrifice their time with their family, so the western consume can afford goods, yet they are not well compensated because majority of the profit goes into western companies’ pocket. Take iPhone as example, even though majority of an iPhone is manufactured and assembled in China, the workers that make them only share a very small fraction of a profit because companies that manufacture/assemble them get only small fractions of money from the western companies that produces nothing. Please do not self-impose moral high ground while you, as a consumer, is the indirect cause of sub-par labour standard in other countries.

      • richard

        Your point is well taken…. unfortunately the Wiegers and the Falon Gong and Tianeman will not square history in favor of ideology over truth.

    • Harold

      Trump walked away from China a few weeks earlier with a 250 billion dollar Trade deal including a 40 billion dollar deal for Alaska as well. Trudeau walks in and comes back with nothing. You don’t think that it had something to do with Trudeau’s skill level do you? Perhaps you believe that all Trudeau has to do is flex is feminine muscle at China and all of China’s history suddenly vanishes and they become Canada’s morals and Trudeau’s Liberal maniacs. What Right does Canada have to interfere in the cultural affairs of another Country? Do you believe that you can just walk into a country and hand them your values? Moreover, you clearly haven’t spent any time examining your own country, its current events, or its history. I would suggest to you that we clean up are own backyard before we go pointing our finger at others. It seems hypocritical that you would trash their country and the products and then at the same time are angry that they aren’t trading with us. Canada opening up a market with China for trade – is that not Canadian opportunism? further seems that you dislike dictators unless the dictator is you; Is that your moral high ground? You certainly have a unique mix of messages.

  • McAllister Pulswaithe

    Ninety percent of the stuff I own is made in China. Not that I want it that way – that’s just how it is.

  • George Silversurfer

    Great.. So both sides got what they wanted from trudeau trip. Carry on

  • richard

    Blaming China for anything is like blaming the wind….. they have no concept of liberal democracy and never have…. The fact is that it is “we” who tacitly endorse their oppression and greed through our purchase of cheap consumer and industrial products…. It is the same mentality that drives our cheap food system here in North America where the lowest common denominator in worker respect, environmental protection, indeed food safety, prevail. So we are no better or smarter………… Producers who have quit buying cheap Chinese bearings, roller chain, tires, etc. have come to learn that quality does not cost….it pays…. Its not until people realize that quality of everything is in fact the driving force of progress, that we stop buying into illusions of well being as defined by how much crap we can surround ourselves with….. China is simply pandering to our basest human instincts, we are victims of nothing but ourselves. Perhaps we should sign a trade agreement with ourselves first…..

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