BEIJING (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began a visit to China focused on trade Monday with a stop at a Chinese social media giant where he talked up the advantages of travel to his homeland.
Accompanied by four Cabinet ministers, Trudeau also met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People.
“It’s rare to have such a close, intimate relationship where we have mutual exchanges of visits along with such dialogues,” Li told Trudeau in remarks at the start of their meeting. “China-Canada relations are indeed headed toward a golden stage.”
Trudeau responded that the opportunities for deepening ties between the countries’ economies and people are “tremendous.”
“Canada is deeply interested in further engagement and trade across the Pacific and I know we’re going to continue to have wonderful and fruitful discussions now and in the future as well,” Trudeau said.
The two leaders oversaw the signing of three documents related to trade in food products, energy cooperation and education, though no details were provided.
Trudeau is to meet with President Xi Jinping on Tuesday.
At Sina, owner of the popular Twitter-like Weibo microblogging service, Trudeau took part in a panel discussion that touched on Canadian tourism draws, as well as the nation’s beer and wine, according to Chinese and Canadian reports.
Next year marks the China-Canada year of tourism and Canada is hoping to double the number of Chinese tourist arrivals.
China and Canada are also in exploratory talks on a framework for a trade agreement, although reports say Ottawa has been pushing for provisions on the environment, governance, labor and gender issues.
Beijing generally seeks to avoid references that might highlight the one-party authoritarian state’s human rights record.
China has positioned itself as a leading advocate of free trade, particularly since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pan-Pacific trade deal. Yet foreign businesses often complain that China closes many key areas to foreign investment, and Xi is known to favor a centralized economic model with special support for state-owned industries.
Canada has remained part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. During recent talks in Danang, Vietnam, Trudeau lobbied for strong provisions for environmental protection, labor rights, and gender issues, and the name of the initiative was altered to be the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
China largely imports wood and agricultural products, ore, fuels and seafood from Canada, while Canada imports machinery, furniture and sporting goods and textiles from China. The trade imbalance has narrowed, but China still ran a surplus of about $17 billion with Canada during the first half of this year, according to the Canadian government.