China free-trade deal could bring 'billions and billions' to Canada annually: expert

A Canada-China free-trade deal could bring “billions and billions of dollars” to the sagging Canadian economy each year, according to an expert on the subject matter.

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Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, recently co-authored a study on a Canada-China free-trade agreement. The study will be released next week. Canada is not currently engaged in free-trade negotiations with China, according to Global Affairs Canada. However, a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) is in place between China and Canada, which is aimed at protecting and promoting foreign investment through legally-binding rights and obligations.

Speaking to CTV’s Question Period, Dawson said her research shows that Canada stands to benefit greatly if the two countries were to reach a deal.

“I am astonished by the benefits that Canada could derive from this kind of agreement. Billions and billions of dollars every year."

According to Dawson and Canadian Global Affairs Institute Vice-President Colin Robertson, many sectors of the Canadian economy would profit from the diversification that would come with a Canada-China free-trade deal, including:

• Agri-food, such as pork and canola

• Lumber

• Insurance: “There are a number of Canadian insurance companies over there. We sell an awful lot," Robertson told Question Period.

Dawson also said there is no need to worry about the effects of a free-trade deal with China on Canada's relationship with its closest partner -- the U.S.

“The United States already has a high level economic dialogue and framework with China. It’s working quite well, ” said Dawson. “It’s way ahead of the level of cooperation that Canada and China have so I don’t think that we would put ourselves in an antagonistic position vis-à-vis the United States.”

The Liberal government has emphasized the need for Canada to connect with growing markets in the global economy, especially amidst a bleak economy at home. More specifically, International Trade Minister Chyrstia Freeland told CTV’s Question Period this week that China and India are priorities for her file.

“These are two huge, growing markets, areas, where at a time the global economy is not growing as quickly as we would like, we’re still seeing tremendous economic growth.”

Freeland’s comments come as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government prepares for a major trade mission to China and India. Trudeau is likely to travel to the two countries in March after bilateral meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, according to a report by the Globe and Mail last week. The trip is part of a longer-term goal of reaching a free-trade deal with China, said the report.


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