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Canada PM Trudeau to mount charm offensive in China: officials

Saturday, August 27, 2016 - 07:59
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will tour the Great Wall, shoot hoops with retired basketball star Yao Ming and meet with women entrepreneurs when he travels to China next week to bolster trade and diplomatic ties, his office said Friday.

[OTTAWA] Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will tour the Great Wall, shoot hoops with retired basketball star Yao Ming and meet with women entrepreneurs when he travels to China next week to bolster trade and diplomatic ties, his office said Friday.

There will also be meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and senior government officials during the August 30 to September 6 trip, which includes stops in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Mr Trudeau will travel as well to Hangzhou for a summit meeting of the Group of 20 economic powers on September 4 and 5.

But ordinary Chinese citizens can also expect to see the playful political leader pose for selfies with locals, and reach out to them through social media - as he has done everywhere he has gone since being elected to Canada's highest office late last year.

"The prime minister has a WeChat and Weibo account and we will be using these during the trip," a senior government official said, referring to two popular social-media platforms in China.

But the trip, made at the invitation of Premier Li Keqiang, comes as a handful of trade irritants and other stresses weigh on the relationship.

These include Chinese plans to impose new rules on canola imports to protect against crop disease, potentially affecting C$2 billion (S$2.04 billion) worth of annual Canadian oilseed sales to China.

Trade minister Chrystia Freeland, who will be accompanying Mr Trudeau, said this week that the bilateral relationship could not improve until the matter is resolved.

The detention of Canadian citizen Kevin Garratt in 2014 on espionage charges also looms over the visit. He had run a Christian-themed coffee shop near the North Korean border.

China, meanwhile, is seeking a lifting of restrictions on foreign ownership of Canadian oil-sands leases.

"What we need with China is to reset the relationship a little bit," Mr Trudeau told reporters.

"The previous government went from hot to cold and didn't have the robust engagement to allow for covering of a broad range of topics in strong and meaningful ways," he said.

"We look forward to engaging with China on the economic files and allowing greater access to the growing Chinese middle-class market for Canadian products and goods and services. But also, we'll be engaging in a strong and robust way how China can improve human rights, governance and democracy issues, in a way that's consistent with its desire to improve its reputation on the world stage."

A senior government official underscored the importance of the visit.

"Canada's future prosperity is increasingly tied to China," the official told reporters.

"To grow its economy... it's imperative that Canada renew its relationship with China."

Mr Trudeau will also seek cooperation with China on climate change and other global issues, press for increased tourism from China, and urge Chinese business leaders to boost their investments in Canada.

He will meet privately with managers of the Chinese conglomerate Fosun, which purchased a minority stake in Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil last year.

AFP