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Canada, China foreign ministers pledge dialogue, will attempt more collaboration

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi say they want to find common ground and maintain communication, despite tensions across the Pacific.

The two spoke on Thursday, four months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a rapprochement with China would be impossible, in part due to concerns over foreign interference.

Joly requested the call, and her office says it’s part of her promise to take a pragmatic approach to diplomacy and keep talking to countries Ottawa disagrees with.

Statements from both countries recognized ongoing diplomatic strain while hinting the other side has caused the tensions.

However both pledged to maintain open communication channels.

The two also discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and co-operating in the fight against climate change.

Both countries have tasked officials with advancing next steps, such as having more exchanges between Chinese and Canadian people and co-operation in trade and biodiversity.

Beijing detained Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig from late 2018 until fall 2021 and imposed multi-year bans on certain Canadian imports, in what was widely seen as retaliation for the Vancouver arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant.

The Chinese government excluded Canada from a move last year to loosen restrictions on group travel abroad, arguing Ottawa had “hyped up” allegations of foreign interference. 

In an English translation of the Thursday readout by China’s foreign ministry published in state media, Wang is quoted as saying that both countries have important influence in the Asia-Pacific region. He claimed that the two countries don’t have conflicting interests or historical fights, and laid out three ways Ottawa could improve relations.

The first involves Canada recognizing it has caused a diplomatic rift, though Wang didn’t elaborate on how. 

The Liberals disagree with this characterization, arguing that China holds differing values and is disrupting the global order. Wang says China isn’t challenging international rules, and instead is seeking development.

The second is “mutual respect” which he said involves recognizing Taiwan as part of China and working constructively, “so as not to let differences dominate bilateral relations.”

The third is to focus on “win-win co-operation” such as avoiding the politicization of trade and the “pan-security of economic issues.” That request comes as the U.S. and its allies limit China’s access to certain microchip technologies and the ownership of foreign assets by Chinese state companies.

Trudeau has refused to say whether the American semiconductor bans go beyond national-security concerns and instead seek to hinder Beijing’s economic rise.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2024.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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