Prime Minister Stephen Harper says a new trade deal between Canada and China has the potential to create thousands of jobs and strengthen important trading ties between the two countries.

The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement was signed during the APEC summit in Russia on Sunday.

Harper said the new rules are designed to correct the currently lopsided trade relationship between the two countries as well as protect Canadians investing in China.

“It not only protects investments that are undertaken, but also provides greater certainty to investors looking at this kind of market,” Harper told reporters on Sunday.

Harper said his government is creating the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete globally.

“This agreement with China, the world’s second largest economy, will provide stronger protection for Canadians investing in China, and create jobs and economic growth in Canada.”

This year, China has spent a record $11 billion in Canada, however Canada’s investments in China have only totalled $4.6 billion.

During Harper’s meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader said he attaches great importance to the relationship between the two countries.

Harper replied, “I look forward today to discussing with you a range of issues and finding ways to further strengthen our relationship.”

The prime minster said during the meeting he also raised concerns about China’s human rights record.

“We always raise those issues, they're always part of the dialogue we have with (the) Chinese,” said Harper. “It’s not always appreciated, but it’s always on our list.”

The meeting with the Chinese leader was considered one of Harper’s top priorities during the APEC summit, as the Conservatives seek to narrow Canada’s trade deficit with China.

Canada's annual exports to China are just shy of $17 billion, but its imports total $48 billion.

The prime minister said Industry Canada’s ongoing review of China National Offshore Oil Co.’s bid to buy Calgary-based Nexen Inc. was not discussed.

“The Chinese side did not raise the issue of (the) Nexen takeover,” said Harper. “They understand that is subject to Canadian legal process, which as prime minister I'm severely restricted to comment.”

China has already invested heavily in Canada's natural resources sector, but the Nexen bid has sparked concern because CNOOC is a state-owned entity.

Following the summit, Harper said APEC provides Canada with the opportunity to engage with the growing economies of the Pacific Rim.

“We are, for example, negotiating with the Trans Pacific Partnership, conducting exploratory talks with Thailand, and are undertaking free trade negotiations with Japan and South Korea,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV’s Richard Madan