Justin Trudeau lifted off for China late Saturday afternoon after spending part of the day in British Columbia to campaign with the Liberal candidate in a local byelection.
The prime minister joined Gordon Hogg in South Surrey-White Rock, a riding the party hopes to take away from the Conservatives. The seat became vacant when former Tory MP Dianne Watts resigned to run for the leadership of the provincial Liberals.
Trudeau will spend four days in China in an effort to promote trade, tourism and closer business ties.
He will meet on Monday with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and on Tuesday with President Xi Jinping. Xi will also play host to the prime minister at a state dinner that night before Trudeau heads to Guangzhou in southern China, where he’ll deliver the keynote address at the annual Fortune Global Forum.
That’s the itinerary. But outside of the details of where he’s going, and who he’ll meet, Canadian officials have been mum on what to expect out of this trip, even though many in the business and diplomatic community believe the goal is to announce the beginning of formal negotiations with China for a free trade deal.
Fruitful time for free trade
Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as Canada’s ambassador to China until 2016, says the time is ripe to start negotiations after four rounds of exploratory talks and extensive consultations with Canadian businesses.
“I think the Chinese were a bit surprised at the outset at what we were seeking, because they had said ‘We will give you what we gave Australia and that would be good for you,'” Saint-Jacques said in an interview with CBC News. “But we said we have a lot more to offer in terms of high technology. And if I look at the needs of China, they are desperate to clean their environment and they would have that access.”
Wheels up – heading back to Asia for a busy week focused on increasing trade and tourism between Canada & China.
Stewart Beck, the president of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, agrees.
“We have a great experience in the World Trade Organization and NAFTA.,” he said this week in an interview on CBC’s Power and Politics.
“And I’d say we are top of class when it comes to negotiating these kinds of agreements and I think that’s critical to them. They want that type…