Canada and China stopped short of launching free trade negotiations, agreeing instead to extend exploratory talks toward a deal.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Li Keqiang canceled a joint press conference Monday, with each leader making a brief statement instead in which they pledged cooperation on climate change and clean growth. The two countries had been expected to kick off formal talks toward a free trade agreement, though officials had said right up until the last minute no decision had been made.
“I’m pleased that we’ll continue our exploratory discussions toward a comprehensive trade agreement between Canada and China,” Trudeau said in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. “With China, as with all our trading partners, we’re committed to progressive trade that benefits everyone, trade that puts people first and reflects Canadian values, especially when it comes to labor and the environment.”
Trudeau said the country’s beef and pork producers will have greater access to the Chinese market, and that the two countries would continue to work together to on a canola dispute after an existing deal expires in 2020.
Monday’s turn was reminiscent of last month’s scuttled Trans-Pacific Partnership talks in Vietnam, when Canada angered trading partners including Japan when it balked at finalizing a revamped deal.
Canada is seeking to diversify trade away from the U.S., and that effort intensified after the Trump administration threatened to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement if it couldn’t wring concessions from Canada and Mexico. Negotiations on a revamped Nafta deal have been extended into next year.