Ambassador says Trudeau will eventually call Chinese president
Rachel Gilmore, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Friday, January 18, 2019 11:00AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 18, 2019 4:03PM EST
OTTAWA -- Ambassador John McCallum said a prime ministerial phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping is bound to happen in the ongoing Huawei dispute, but it’s the “last arrow” in the government’s “quiver.”
“The prime minister calling the president is essentially the last arrow in our quiver and I think other actions have to be taken first, because it is appropriate and right for him to do it at the right time,” McCallum told reporters Friday.
“And I’m sure he will,” McCallum added.
He made the comments after providing the House of Commons foreign affairs committee with a closed-door briefing on the state of Canada-China relations.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said the briefing gave him “no sense of confidence that there’s a plan to resolve this.”
“It is clear there has been no plan with respect to this dispute from the start, going back to last year. The government seems to be making it up as they go along,” O’Toole said.
Prime Minster Justin Trudeau has phoned multiple world leaders about the Canada-China dispute, including the United States, Singapore and Japan. The United Kingdom, France and Germany have also all expressed their support for Canada’s effort to secure the release of two detained Canadians.
The two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were detained in apparent retaliation for the December arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou. Canadian officials arrested Meng in response to an extradition order from the United States.
The dispute is showing no signs of slowing. On Thursday, Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye referred to the arrest of the Huawei executive as an act of “backstabbing.”
The opposition continues to ask the prime minister to call Chinese leadership.
“They don’t want to take the arrow out of the quiver until they can be guaranteed a bullseye. That’s what’s happening here – this dispute is getting worse. It’s clear Prime Minister Trudeau doesn’t want to get involved until he can have a photo op with resolution,” O’Toole said.
“We have a prime minister who won’t even pick up the phone.”
Hundreds of Canadians detained in China
Speaking to reporters about the two detained Canadians on Friday, McCallum pointed out there are many other detained Canadians the government is currently working to help.
“There are other consular cases in China that are private, and I want to assure the families of those other consular cases that we are equally working on their situations,” McCallum said.
“I want to assure them that their family members have not, in the slightest, been forgotten.”
Global Affairs confirmed that there are 200 Canadians who have being detained in China with no marked increase or decrease in recent years.
O’Toole suspected that some of these cases might be related to the dispute.
“There’s at least three Canadian citizens, we think with the visa situations there’s likely dozens more, that have been directly affected by [Trudeau’s] failed measures with respect to diplomatic relations with China,” O’Toole said.
Global Affairs said the Canadians are detained for a variety of alleged infractions and continue to face ongoing legal proceedings.
One Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, saw his 15-year jail sentence upgraded to a death sentence in Chinese courts on Monday, prompting concern for Canadians in China with ongoing legal proceedings.
McCallum rules out China trade deal
McCallum also ruled out the idea of Canada striking a trade agreement with China anytime in the near future.
“We are certainly not negotiating free trade with China either before or after this problem, so it’s not on the table right now and it hasn’t been,” McCallum said.
This is a change in tone from 2015.
The Liberal platform promised to expand export opportunities, specifically identifying the importance of exploring “deeper trade relationships with emerging and established markets, including China and India.”
Canada had previously launched exploratory talks towards a free-trade agreement with China. As recently as mid-November, International Trade Minister Jim Carr traveled to Beijing to broaden sector-by-sector trade relationships.
McCallum confirmed Friday that those talks never bloomed into formal negotiations – and likely will not anytime soon.
McCallum said the individual Chinese people don’t have an issue with individual Canadians. He said security was required when a Canada Goose store opened in Beijing - but only because of the huge crowds of customers.— Rachel Gilmore (@atRachelGilmore) January 18, 2019
McCallum did, however, recommend that people who have had legal issues in China not travel to the country at this time. He said people should evaluate their personal circumstances.— Rachel Gilmore (@atRachelGilmore) January 18, 2019
A security guard told McCallum that he shouldn’t drive around with the Canadian flag visible, but McCallum said he insisted on keeping the flag in plain view and has never had an issue.— Rachel Gilmore (@atRachelGilmore) January 18, 2019
As for the committee being closed to the public, McCallum said it’s out of respect for the families of the detained Canadians who have requested privacy.— Rachel Gilmore (@atRachelGilmore) January 18, 2019