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Canada's Trudeau says trade negotiations with China may take years

Canada's Trudeau says trade negotiations with China may take years”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has talked with Chinese leadership about Canadian citizens now imprisoned in China.

But the first clues that it might not happen emerged late in the day.

'Golden era'Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shake hands at the end of a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.

Ties between China and Canada have always been close, and under Trudeau, the two heads of government have agreed to meet annually in addition to holding a range of dialogues on various issues.

"There is a coming together on the sense that this is going to be a big thing, not a small thing and the importance of making sure that we are able to follow through in the ways, high expectations that Canada has of the outcome for Canadians but also high expectations that China knows it will be setting with its first deal with a G-7 country", Trudeau said.

The allure of a free trade deal with the world's second-largest economy had proved irresistible.

"As long as we act in the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, then we can see mutual understanding and further promote this bilateral relationship".

He also called on both sides to intensify exchanges and deepen relations on education, culture, tourism and sports, and strengthen cooperation on key areas such as climate change and coordination within multilateral frameworks. Neither looked at each other as they did.

In his statement, Li added both counties believe in trade liberalization and removing barriers investment.

Canada is seeking to diversify trade away from the US, and that effort intensified after the Trump administration threatened to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement if it couldn't wring concessions from Canada and Mexico.

Earlier on Monday Trudeau said in a joint statement with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that the two had discussed a free trade deal and are "exploring" options, but failed to launch formal free trade talks as some had expected. The Canadian leader told reporters afterward the two countries only want to proceed if they can meet the "high expectations" that launching talks would create.

China dominates the $90-billion trade relationship now; its exports to Canada were worth more than $64-billion in 2016 and the gap has grown every year since 2012.

And unlike Canada's other free trade partners, China is a one-party state with a spotty human rights record. During recent talks in Danang, Vietnam, Trudeau lobbied for strong provisions for environmental protection, labour rights, and gender issues, and the name of the initiative was altered to be the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Negotiations on a revamped Nafta deal have been extended into next year.

Progress was nonetheless made Monday, with Trudeau saying Canada's beef and pork producers will have greater access to the Chinese market.

Agreement (NAFTA) and exited the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), both of them trade pacts that Canada is part of.

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