Asia trade talks on the agenda as Harper heads to APEC meeting
Published Thursday, September 6, 2012 5:07PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 6, 2012 5:45PM EDT
Anticipating that the economy will be “sluggish” in the foreseeable future, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday Canada must look to growing Asian markets to increase its exports and forge new trade partnerships.
Expanding Canada’s economic relationship with China and other countries in the region is key to future growth, Harper said at Bloomberg’s Canada-Asia Dialogue conference in Vancouver Thursday afternoon before heading to Vladivostok, Russia for the annual APEC meeting.
The summit will bring together leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific countries to discuss trade issues, and Harper may hold one-on-one meetings with the presidents of China and Russia.
Harper acknowledged that some Canadians are distrustful of China’s economic interest in the country, especially its bid to buy Alberta’s major petroleum producer, Nexen Inc.
China’s $15-billion offer faces a review by Canada’s Industry Minister Christian Paradis and the federal Competition Bureau. Paradis said last month he is still waiting for a formal proposal from the state-owned company to purchase Nexen.
But Harper said he’s never viewed Canada’s relationship with China as one-sided. The Conservative government will make sure that Canada’s interests come “first and foremost” in all trade talks, he said.
Asked about potential foreign government interference and ensuring that business rules are followed when dealing with developing markets, Harper said Ottawa will do everything it can to alleviate such concerns.
“Doing business in many of these countries isn’t just a matter of us signing a trade deal,” Harper told a Bloomberg reporter.
“It also requires sustained presence on the ground and relationship-building in a way that we’re probably not used to in our country and maybe ways we don’t like but that’s the reality of the game.”
Regardless of the trade partner in question, Canada has a big advantage in that its banking system is solid and debt levels are not as high as those in the United States, Harper said.
Harper is expected to push Ottawa’s aggressive trade agenda at APEC gathering over the next two days.
U.S. President Barack Obama won’t be attending the summit because of the Democratic national convention in North Carolina.
Harper’s visit to Russia coincides with the 40th anniversary of the hockey Summit Series, in which Canada beat the Soviet Union in eight games.
Hockey greats from both countries have been gathering in Russia this week to remember and celebrate the legendary tournament.
With files from The Canadian Press