MONTREAL (AFP) – Canada’s main opposition leader last Saturday called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be tougher on Beijing in resolving trade disputes between the two countries and securing the release of detained Canadians.
Relations have deteriorated between China and Canada following the December arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, a top official in China’s telecom giant Huawei, who is wanted by the United States (US).
Since then, Chinese authorities have arrested two Canadians on suspicion of espionage and blocked imports of Canadian agricultural products, moves Beijing said are unrelated to the Huawei case.
“Trudeau must make it clear to China that there are consequences for actions,” Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, who leads Trudeau in the polls ahead of next October’s parliamentary elections, said in a statement.
He called on Trudeau to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit of global leaders in Osaka, Japan, and “make clear that there are consequences for arbitrarily detaining our citizens and abruptly blocking our agriculture exports”.
Scheer said Trudeau should retaliate against China by bringing a case before the World Trade Organization over its import bans, increasing inspection on Chinese imports into Canada and reviewing “all investments coming from China”.
“I renew these calls, and I further urge Justin Trudeau to take strong retaliatory action against China – to send the message that Canada will not be pushed around,” he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Trudeau said he’d spoken to Xi about the two detained Canadians, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and consultant Michael Spavor.
He gave few details about the interaction but said, “I think it was important that we would have a face-to-face opportunity to engage directly in President Xi so that we can hopefully keep moving forward on this issue.”