Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Human Rights on the Table in Any China Free Trade Deal, Says McCallum

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Human Rights on the Table in Any China Free Trade Deal, Says McCallum

Article excerpt

Rights key to Canada-China trade deal: envoy

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OTTAWA - John McCallum, Canada's new ambassador to China, says human rights and labour standards will form part of any potential free trade agreement between the two countries.

Formal trade negotiations have yet to begin and Ottawa is conducting a round of exploratory consultations. But if Canada and China do enter into talks, Canada wants a "progressive" deal that would including chapters on both those areas, McCallum said Wednesday.

McCallum said he has seen lots of enthusiasm in Canada for a deal with China and he is keen to pursue deeper economic ties when, and if, the time comes, but not at the expense of human rights.

"We have to do this with our eyes open," he said in a telephone interview from Beijing. "We know that in many areas, China and Canada have different views of the world, different priorities, different laws.

"There are huge gains for Canadians if we're successful. We also have responsibility on the human rights side. We do both."

The opposition has raised red flags about the talks, pointing to recent comments from the Chinese government that human rights and limits on investment by state-owned enterprises should not be part of the trade discussion.

McCallum brushed aside a warning by former World Bank chief and U.S. trade czar Robert Zoellick that Canada shouldn't get too close to China if it wants to stay on the good side of the Trump administration in Washington.

At a recent event in Washington, Zoellick raised concerns about the timing of Canada-China trade talks in light of some well-documented anti-China sentiment from President Donald Trump and some of this top trade officials.

McCallum noted that the Trump administration does not yet have its Chinese ambassador in place and it remains to be seen how Washington will actually engage with Beijing.

"But whatever the American position is, the Canadian position has been defined clearly by our prime minister and it's my job to put that into effect. …

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