Oil on the agenda for Harper's China trip
John Size, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, February 5, 2012 10:39PM EST
Chinese investment in the Canadian energy sector is helping create jobs, but that doesn't mean the country is willing to put its sovereignty up for sale, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says.
Baird and Prime Minister Stephen Harper head to China Monday on a visit that will cover a wide range of economic topics, including shipping Canadian oil to the energy-thirsty Asian giant.
"We should be very clear we don't want anyone to own all of a Canadian commodity, all of a Canadian natural resource," Baird told CTV's Question Period Sunday when asked about billions of Chinese investment in the oil sands.
"We think it's been beneficial . . . but at the same time I think you can always count on the Government of Canada to stand up for Canadian values and stand up for Canadian sovereignty," he said in the interview from Tel Aviv.
Although meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao will focus on oil and other economic opportunities, Harper and Baird will also raise China's dismal human rights record and its veto of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria.
"There are many areas where we have a very good relationship with China. Obviously, we have some profound disagreements and we'll certainly take the opportunity to have a good dialogue with them on those issues," Baird said.
A top federal official confirmed Sunday that Syria will be on the agenda as well as Iran and its nuclear program.
China: Good investment?
Two experts on China also appeared on Question Period Sunday offering reasons for and against increasing economic ties with the Middle Kingdom.
Wenran Jiang, founder of the University of Alberta's China Institute and a government adviser, said China represents about 40 per cent of the world's energy demand and Canada is long overdue getting into that market.
"The trip to China is an important one, other than the energy area, there is broader, bigger markets in other sectors that Canada has not explored," he said.
With rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline that would have delivered Canadian oil to the United States, it's time to open new markets for the country's resources, Jiang said.
But Gordon Chang, a contributor to Forbes and author of "The Coming Collapse of China", said Canada should tread carefully because China is heading for economic decline.
"You have plunging property prices, stagnant vehicle sales, accelerating capital flight, collapsing industrial orders and this is not just a short-term phenomenon," he said in an interview from New York.
China has enjoyed 35 years of uninterrupted growth and is now on a long-term downward path, he said, suggesting Canada will be able to sell some oil there but not as much as Canadians believe.
Jiang agreed China has problems, but said its economic fundamentals are strong, including lower debt levels compared with other industrialized nations, the world's largest foreign currency reserve and strong revenues.
"China has made a tremendous amount of progress in the past three decades. China is a complexity. China is struggling with itself in its political reform path," Jiang said.
But there's no imminent collapse in its future, he said.
Jiang also said the Chinese have a more relaxed attitude with regard to Canadian investment, pumping more than $15 billion into the energy sector in the last two years.
If the Northern Gateway pipeline to the west coast is delayed due to opposition, China can sell its oil production to the U.S. and buy additional crude on the open market, he said.
It's also unlikely the Americans will be upset about any new energy deals Canada strikes with China because the Keystone pipeline will eventually be approved, moving oil sands crude south, Chang added.