"It is all the more important for both countries to continue adhering to their principles of openness and co-operation and continue striving for free trade and economic globalization.” Amb. Zhang Junsai
WATERLOO — In today’s interdependent global economy, Canada and China can mutually benefit from closer economic ties, the Chinese ambassador to Canada, Zhang Junsai, said on Thursday.
Zhang, who is known for being unusually outspoken for a Chinese diplomat, told an audience at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo that “there is no going back to protectionism.”
He also said investments such as the China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s bid to take over Calgary oil company Nexen Inc. is not something to be feared.
It should be seen as a sign that companies in China, which have the liquidity to invest overseas, are seeing the potential of economic relations with Canada. That can be a “win-win” for both nations, he said.
Canada and China don’t have a full free-trade agreement, but the two countries recently signed an investment promotion and protection agreement after 18 years of negotiations. Zhang said when people ask him why this agreement has been reached now, his answer is: “The time is right. We need each other more than ever.”
No matter how the current economy unfolds, “it is all the more important for both countries to continue adhering to their principles of openness and co-operation and continue striving for free trade and economic globalization,” he said.
Zhang noted that Canada was among the first of the Western counties to enter into diplomatic relations with China 42 years ago. “In fact, Canada did that eight years earlier than the United States and two years earlier than Australia.”
He also spoke of a defining moment in Canada-China relations that happened in the early 1960s, when Canada defied a U.S. trade embargo and started sending wheat to China in the midst of a widespread famine.
Over the past three decades China has gone from being a struggling poor nation to becoming the world’s second largest economy, Zhang said, attributing that to China’s policies of reform and opening up to the world economy. China is now Canada’s second largest trading partner and the trade between the two counties in 2011 was worth $64 billion US, he said.
In the face of rapid changes in every area, from politics and the economy to energy, security and technology, “Canada and China share more and more converging interests,” Zhang said. “It becomes all the more necessary for us to strengthen our will to deepen co-operation and reach stronger consensus for shared growth.”
Zhang said China is also aiming for sustainable economic growth, realizing that it cannot have an economy that is focused only on the two pillars of investment and export, but must also give priority to domestic consumption as well.
He said Canada and China each have strong competitive advantages in the global economy but they also complement each other, especially in the sectors of agriculture and agrifood, environmental technologies and services, machinery and equipment, natural resources, as well as textiles, transportation infrastructure and aerospace.
“These are sectors where we have significant potential for expanded co-operation,” Zhang said. “It is high time for the two countries to make full use of the favourable conditions that have been created by our two governments.”