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Sunday, September 25, 2016, 09:58

China, Canada announce free trade talks

By Xinhua

China, Canada announce free trade talks
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, as he holds an expanded meeting in the Cabinet room on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept 22, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

MONTREAL, Canada – China and Canada have agreed to launch exploratory discussions for a possible China-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The two sides listed 29 important agreements during the tour of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, according to a joint statement released Friday by the two countries.

It was the first visit by a Chinese head of government to the North American country in 13 years.

Li on Saturday left for Cuba after wrapping up a fruitful visit to Canada with a string of promising outcomes and inspiring remarks.

In solidifying a new chapter in their strategic partnership, the two sides held the successful inaugural meeting of the Annual Dialogue between the Chinese premier and the Canadian prime minister.

The two sides announced the goal of doubling bilateral trade by 2025 based on 2015 statistics.

The two sides acknowledged the interconnected nature of the two economies and the untapped potential of the China-Canada economic and commercial relationship, and agreed to launch exploratory discussions for a possible China-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The two governments also agreed to develop cooperation in third-party markets, in order to encourage and support enterprises of both countries to pursue economic development opportunities in those markets.

The two sides announced the goal of doubling two-way visits by 2025 based on 2015 statistics.


On Friday, Li visited renowned Canadian ice hockey team Montreal Canadiens, and dropped the first puck for a training match.

Accompanied by his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, Li traveled to Bell Centre, and the two leaders were briefed about the history of the club, which was founded in 1909 and has won 24 National Hockey League championships.

In the team's locker room, Li and Trudeau were presented with Montreal Canadiens jerseys emblazoned with their respective names and the number 1.

"It fits me well," said Li, who added that with the jersey he became an honorary member of Montreal Canadiens.

Wearing the jerseys, Li and Trudeau then entered the rink, giving high fives with young players waiting for them.

Li said he was pleased to experience Canada's national sport together with Trudeau in Montreal, the cradle of ice hockey.

Then the two leaders dropped the ceremonial first puck for a training game of young players of Chinese origin and cheered from time to time the energetic moves of the children.

China, Canada announce free trade talks
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, center, takes part in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, not pictured, in the cabinet room on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept 22, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

"Signing an FTA with Canada will be a challenge for China as it will have to bear greater pressure than the developed countries," Li said Friday at a business forum in Montreal. "However, China is willing to engage in FTA talks with Canada to press the low-end domestic enterprises to move up the ladder."

For Canada, he said, the FTA will create more trade opportunities and facilitate joint efforts with China to explore third-party markets.

China is willing to strengthen mutual political trust and deepen practical cooperation in a bid to forge a "golden decade" for China-Canada ties, he added.

When meeting Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard Friday, Li called on Montreal and Quebec to continue to spearhead China-Canada cooperation at local levels.

"China and Canada have reached consensus on launching the feasibility study of the FTA. China welcomes Quebec to play a positive role in this process."

During Thursday's talks with Trudeau in Ottawa, Li said Canada should loosen up restrictions on the export of high-tech products to China in a bid to tap potential for bilateral economic cooperation.

"The exchange of visits within one month showed that China-Canada relations are entering a new stage... it's rare in the bilateral ties, and conforms to the interests of both countries as well as the expectations of the international community."

It is normal for the two countries with different national conditions and in different stages of development to have differences. What's more important is to manage their differences, knowing that their common interests far outweigh differences, Li said Thursday at a joint press conference with Trudeau.

When meeting Canada's Senate Speaker George Furey and Speaker of the House of Commons Geoff Regan Thursday, Li said the National People's Congress, China's legislature, is willing to strengthen the exchange of experience in law-making and rule of law, and facilitate communication with Canada's Senate and House of Commons to help promote China-Canada relations and enhance understanding and friendship between the two peoples.

China appreciated the contribution Canadian Governor General David Johnston has made to the bilateral ties. Though far apart, China and Canada share deep friendship, and the visit has deepened mutual political trust and pushed forward substantial cooperation, Li said Thursday during a meeting with the governor general.

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