Nothing will be like before

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This week, barely 72 hours after Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor landed on Canadian soil, the Canada-China Business Council, better known by its acronym CCBC, held a virtual conference to help businesses to “seize business opportunities” as part of the 14e Chinese Communist Government’s Five-Year Plan. Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton addressed the participants, as did Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu to stress the importance of trade between the two countries. Among the event’s sponsors were Export Development Canada, a federal Crown corporation, and the Royal Bank of Canada, the country’s leading financial institution.

Clearly, if the Meng Wanzhou affair poisoned diplomatic relations between Canada and China for almost three years, it will not have dampened the enthusiasm of Canadian business people for the largest market in the world. While the two Michael died in the Chinese prisons where they were held after the arrest in Canada of Meng in 2018, the Canadian business community has continuously campaigned for the expansion of trade relations between the two countries. Now that the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei has returned to China, after an agreement with the United States Department of Justice to settle the fraud charges against her, Canadian companies are hoping to take advantage of a new era of relaxation to do so. doing business in China without geopolitical obstacles hindering it. Will it be possible?

“Obviously, we now have some reflections to make regarding our relations with China and with the world, including the question on Huawei, and we will make the decision in due form while we are at work. on the plan for the next term, ”Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week.

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Canada remains the only member of the Five Eyes alliance not to have banned or strictly limited Huawei’s participation in the deployment of 5G networks in its territory. Canada’s largest telecommunications companies – Bell, Rogers and Telus – have turned to other providers pending a decision from Ottawa. However, if there is no formal ban, they will not hesitate to resort to cheaper equipment from Huawei in the future. However, experts are almost unanimous in saying that Huawei poses a threat to the national security of Canada and its allies, given that Chinese laws oblige it to participate in Beijing’s intelligence policy.

Would Mr. Trudeau still be ready to allow Huawei to participate in so-called “peripheral” activities to Canadian 5G networks? Could he resist lobbying efforts on the part of Huawei and Canadian telecommunications companies to allow the Chinese giant to increase its sales in Canada?

Huawei Canada’s vice president of government affairs Morgan Elliott sits on the CCBC board of directors, as do former federal Liberal ministers Martin Cauchon and Scott Brison. Olivier Desmarais, son of André Desmarais and grandson of Jean Chrétien, took the reins of the organization in 2018. Mr. Chrétien was among those who advocated the abandonment of the extradition procedures against Meng by the Canadian government in 2019 to free the two Michaeles and get Canada-China relations back on track.

If Mr. Trudeau had then refused this request, his government had nevertheless appealed to the government of President Joe Biden to negotiate an agreement with Meng. The latter ended up agreeing to a remediation agreement with the American justice system in order to obtain the dropping of the charges against her without pleading guilty. The White House spokeswoman denied any connection between this agreement and the release of the two Michael in the hours following its approval by a US court. On the other hand, the journalist of the Globe and Mail Robert Fife, citing three independent sources, wrote this week that Mr. Biden allegedly made the release of the two Canadians a condition of any deal with NS.

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CCBC members obviously hope to turn the page on this sad affair. But nothing will be the same again. In the 1990s, when Mr. Chrétien was leading Team Canada trade missions to China, Canada bet that closer trade ties would push China to uphold international standards in diplomacy, trade and rights. of the person. However, we now know that Xi Jinping’s China has no intention of changing. By opting for “hostage diplomacy” in the Meng affair, it has instead succeeded in getting Canada and the United States to comply with Chinese standards. If that doesn’t seem to bother CCBC members too much, what does Mr. Trudeau think?

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