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Beijing has long sought Canada's presence at the free trade negotiating table in part because such talks would grant it fresh leverage to convince other Group of Seven countries to follow suit. China has signed deals with jurisdictions ranging from Australia to Peru to Iceland and last week wrapped up an agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

"There is a lot of symbolism attached to this [for China]; it's more than just pure economic access," Patrick Leblond, an expert in global economics at the University of Ottawa's graduate school of public and international affairs.

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