TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday he’s launched exploratory talks toward a free trade deal with China — Canada’s second biggest trading partner.
Trudeau made the remarks in a news conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Ottawa. Trudeau also said talks were in progress about reaching an extradition treaty.
Trudeau visited China earlier this month. Li said back to back visits in less than a month shows that China-Canada relations are moving to a new stage.
Trudeau said they want double bilateral trade by 2025.
“There is a huge amount of untapped potential in our commercial relationship,” Trudeau said.
China has embraced Trudeau in part because of his father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who in 1970 became one of the first Western leaders to establish diplomatic relations with Communist China. Li said he will meet annually with Canada’s prime minister.
Trudeau has been criticized by human rights groups for considering an extradition treaty with China over concerns about torture and the death penalty. Beijing and Washington have no extradition treaty.
Li noted that China has an extradition treaty with over 40 countries, including some European countries. Trudeau said the talks about extradition and capital punishment between Canada and China have happened for years but only on a case by case basis.
He said they are pleased to start dialogue in a consistent and responsible way. He reiterated that Canada won’t extradite a person where they could face the death penalty.
Li said China is one of many countries that still uses the death penalty and said it is consistent with national conditions.
“If we abolish the death penalty more innocent people will probably lose their lives,” Li said.
He added that he cannot promise 100 percent that every time people receive fully fair humanitarian treatment in Chinese jails but said when it is discovered they take it seriously.
Trudeau said here is a lot of anxiety about globalization and trade in the world but said his government is focused on creating trade opportunities that benefit Canada’s middle class and said he’s happy to promote free trade on the global stage. Canada has been trying to finish off a free trade agreement with the European Union.