Charest: United States is Canada's best bet for defusing China tensions
In this Dec. 1, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, second right, and China's President Xi Jinping, second left, attend their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
Rachel Gilmore, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Saturday, January 19, 2019 7:00AM EST
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest says Canada’s best bet for defusing tensions in China lies with the United States.
“The way out for Canada on this is the United States,” Charest told host Evan Solomon during an interview for CTV Question Period, which airs Sunday.
“The Trump administration is negotiating this new trade arrangement with China. They have put us in this position.”
Charest explained that the United States created this problem with their extradition order for Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou. He said Trump further escalated the issued when he tweeted that he was prepared to negotiate the release of Meng in exchange for a trade agreement.
China has since detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in an apparent retaliation for Meng’s December arrest. China’s ambassador to Canada recently denied that was the case.
China also escalated Canadian Robert Schellenberg’s 15-year jail sentence to a death sentence in a second hearing on Monday. Canada is referring to the move as “politically motivated.”
Charest said the damage arising from this escalating dispute is significant.
“There is damage, a lot of damage, and I think the relationship is going to go into a deep freeze for a while,” he said.
The former Quebec premier also had a warning for China. He pointed out that international media is picking up the story -- and it isn’t playing out well for China.
“There is a real danger for China, in this very sensitive time, of really overreaching. This is going out to the rest of the world, about how they’re reacting, and it’s not wearing well on them,” Charest said.
“There’s rather a much bigger interest on all sides to try to find some honorable way out.”
There have been calls for Trudeau to pick up the phone and call Chinese President Xi Jinping, but so far the prime minister has instead chosen to reach out to other leaders from around the world – including the United States, Signapore and Japan – in an effort to rally support. The United Kingdom, France and Germany have also backed Canada in its effort to secure the release of the two detained Canadians.
However, Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye warned Canada against continuing its effort to rally international support.
"If Canada has the sincerity of resolving these issues, then Canada will not do such things. We hope Canada thinks twice before making any actions," Lu told reporters on Thursday.
"China will not be isolated in the international community and will not waver in our position simply because of the objection of another country."
However, former international trade minister and current Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne told Solomon that Canada has no intention of slowing its effort to garner international support.
“We are leading a coalition and we’ll continue to do that, because the world is watching,” Champagne said.
“We will always be there to defend Canadians…and I think the best way is to engage others so the world understands that this about defending human rights.”
Champagne did not, however, rule out the eventual possibility of pursuing free trade with China – despite the detention of two Canadians and the death sentence awaiting another.
“We will always consider agreements that can open up markets for Canadians,” Champagne said.