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Canada proposes China meat export solution

Federal government pushes back on Beijing's criticism

bibeau in montreal
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr meet with Canadian beef and pork industry officials Wednesday in Montreal. (Photo courtesy Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Reuters — Canada offered a plan to reassure China about the security of its meat export system, a Canadian minister said on Wednesday, as Ottawa rejected Chinese criticism of its efforts to enlist allies to resolve a diplomatic dispute between the countries.

China said last week it wanted the Canadian government to stop allowing meat shipments to China after bogus export certificates were discovered, escalating a dispute that has also involved arrests in both countries of each other’s citizens and a halt in Canadian canola sales to China.

“We proposed a plan with additional measures for the (meat) export system in a way to tighten it and raise awareness so they reopen the market as soon as possible,” Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau told reporters in Montreal after a meeting with pork and beef industry officials.

She did not give details of the plan, which she said was delivered a couple of days ago.

Relations between China and Canada nosedived in December after Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was detained in Vancouver on a U.S. arrest warrant. She denies any wrongdoing and Beijing is demanding her return.

After Meng’s arrest, China detained two Canadians and later formally charged them with espionage. Canada says the arrests of the two men were arbitrary.

In Beijing on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Canada should not “naively believe” that mustering allies to pressure China would have any effect. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously asked U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the cases of the two detained Canadians during recent discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But Jim Carr, Canadian minister of international trade diversification, said it was not unusual for Canada to seek broader support.

“Who are they to say that there’s no value in Canada talking to its allies about issues we’re having abroad? In a multilateral system, that’s how we do diplomacy,” he told reporters in Montreal.

Bibeau said Canada and China were dealing with the dispute over meat more quickly than the canola issue, which has dragged on since March. She said there was no deadline to resolving the meat issue but that Canadian and Chinese officials were discussing it daily.

It is too soon to consider compensation for the meat industry, Bibeau said.

Reporting for Reuters by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and David Ljunggren in Ottawa.

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