Andrew Scheer rules out free trade deal with China
Rachel Gilmore, Power Play producer
Published Sunday, December 23, 2018 7:00AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 23, 2018 8:09AM EST
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would not pursue a free trade deal with China if he were prime minister.
“We don’t have the same types of systems, we don’t see the transparency and accountability in the Chinese economy. We know there is a lot of state owned enterprises,” Scheer said during an episode of CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday.
“We’re a long way from talking about a free trade deal.”
Canada has been eyeing a potential free trade agreement with China for some time, although talks slowed in late 2017 after Chinese leaders learned that Canada was interested in an agreement with protections for labour, gender and Indigenous rights. A second push for a deal – or even smaller sector-by-sector agreements – was underway in November when Canadian officials visited China. However, anything concrete has yet to emerge.
Trade talks between the two countries face another roadblock after tensions between Canada and China ratcheted up in recent weeks. The Dec. 2 arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, pending her extradition to the United States, has been painted by the Chinese as an illegal detention. Since Meng’s arrest, three Canadian citizens have been detained in China.
Trump threatens interference
U.S. President Donald Trump complicated matters further when he took to Twitter to mull interfering in the extradition case in order to gain leverage in his own trade talks with China.
It’s a comment that Scheer found concerning.
“We would never accept a prime minister saying, well, maybe I’ll intervene and use a trade issue as a link to an independent investigation into criminal activity. It raises a lot of concerns,” he said.
Scheer would ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G network
The telecom giant hasn’t only been in the news because of the arrest of its CFO. Huawei has also been banned from participating in 5G networks in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
As Canada looks to have its own next-generation 5G wireless network established in the coming years, Canadian officials are wrestling with whether the company should be allowed to participate.
Scheer, however, said he would absolutely not allow Huawei to become part of Canada’s 5G telecommunications network.
“The government of China has admitted that they’ve been involved in cyber infiltrations around the world and in governments. We can’t have this naïve approach with the regime in China,” Scheer told Question Period host Evan Solomon.
“There are a lot of real concerns here.”
Some of those concerns, according to national security experts, include Huawei’s potential link to the Chinese government. Once Canada develops its next-generation 5G wireless network, there’s a risk that Huawei’s participation could facilitate Chinese spy agencies in their effort to gather intelligence abroad.
Huawei has denied the existence of such a link between their operations and the Chinese government.
"All Western countries recognize that China has a different approach to acquiring intelligence and information abroad. It's what we call spying… There's an issue with large Chinese corporations who have real links with the Chinese government," Richard Fadden, a former national security adviser to multiple prime ministers, said on Question Period in early December.
"Once Huawei is in, we will never get them out. So I think there's a need for real solidarity here amongst the Five Eyes," Fadden said, referring to the alliance between intelligence agencies in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and Australia.