Canada far from China extradition deal: McCallum

Canada remains far from formally discussing an extradition treaty with China,
the new ambassador to Beijing says.

“We are a long, long way from negotiations, let alone agreeing to such an
agreement,” said John McCallum,
two weeks after taking up Canada’s top diplomatic posting in Beijing.

An extradition pact is “not high on my list of priorities. But if the Chinese
wish to talk with us about it, we will talk,” he added, in an interview with The
Globe and Mail.

Read more: Canada deports hundreds to China each year with no treatment guarantee

The Chinese government has sought a way to force the return of people it
calls corrupt fugitives, and Canada agreed last fall to discuss it. Since then,
however, the abuse of human-rights lawyers in China has brought new attention to
the dark side of its judicial system.

The lack of such a deal has not, however, stopped Canada from sending people
back to China, without receiving any assurances that they will not be tortured
or otherwise mistreated. The Canada Border Services Agency has deported 1,386
people to China over the past three years, according to agency statistics
recently provided to The Globe.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale
defended Canada’s removal process Monday when asked how the government can be
sure that those deported to China will not be treated badly.

“There’s a due process that is followed in every case,” Mr. Goodale said.

“I certainly would be open to any suggestions or advice about how it might be
upgraded or improved to make sure that we are getting accurate information.”

Both
opposition parties called on the government to halt extradition treaty talks
with China, citing concerns about human-rights abuses in the country.

“We
don’t believe it is appropriate to formalize an extradition treaty with the
Chinese,” Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent said.

NDP
Leader Tom Mulcair
echoed Mr. Kent’s concerns, saying there should be no treaty with China “full
stop.”

Extradition
aside, Mr. McCallum
described how Canada could energetically pursue a deal with much broader
importance, a free-trade agreement with the world’s second largest economy. The
Trudeau government has yet to formally commit to negotiations, though a second
round of exploratory talks is scheduled for later this month and public
consultations are under way.

If
the Prime Minister commits, Mr. McCallum
said, there is no need to take 10 years to complete talks, as China and
Australia did. “If we want to do it, we don’t want to take forever to do it. And
we have a template that Australia has provided us.”

Mr.
McCallum was
named to the position in January by Justin Trudeau as part of an effort to
reinvigorate relations between Ottawa and Beijing. Having served as a cabinet
minister under three prime ministers, he is the first ambassador appointed to
modern China with a political rather than diplomatic background.

The
Prime Minister’s posture comes amid rising uncertainty in Canada’s most
important trading partner, the United States, where President Donald Trump has
called for renegotiation of the North American free-trade agreement and
championed an “America first” policy.

China
can’t take the place of the United States as a trading partner, but “our path is
clear, and that is we want to enhance our ties with China,” Mr. McCallum said, adding: “From an economic point of
view, we would be out of our minds if we didn’t seek to be a part of
this.”

Mr.
McCallum,
who possesses a politician’s knack for a slogan, said his goal in Beijing is
“more, more, more.”

“That
translates into jobs, jobs, jobs, because more exports creates jobs, more
tourists creates jobs, more investment by China in Canada typically creates
jobs.”

Mr.
Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang
agreed last fall to work to double the number of Chinese visitors to Canada in a
decade. Mr. McCallum
wants to accomplish that in four years. He sees spending by a new tide of
Chinese tourists as key to persuading skeptical Canadians that drawing closer to
China will bring benefits, particularly in creating new jobs.

“If
we have a free-trade agreement, the principle criterion is, is this good for the
average Canadian worker?” he said.

Ottawa
wants better access to China for Canadian companies in sectors such as agri-food, forest products, clean and
environmental technologies, advanced manufacturing and financial services, he
said.

Mr.
McCallum
said issues such as procurement and non-tariff barriers would also need to be
addressed, acknowledging that China’s lofty defence of free trade isn’t always
matched by action.

“China’s
non-tariff barriers are high relative to other countries,” Mr. McCallum said, and “some aspects of doing business
in China are very unpredictable.”

Any
push for a trade deal, too, must confront a deeply ambivalent Canadian public.
Last year, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada found that 46 per cent of
Canadians opposed free trade with China; support for a trade pact, while up from
2014, remains below 2012 levels.

“My
job is partly to persuade China to do things, but my job is also to persuade
Canada to get its own act in order,” Mr. McCallum said. He expects to return to Canada
every six to eight weeks. There are “things that people in Canada are doing
which are impeding our agenda over here,” he said. He has “come across areas
where Canada has been slow to respond, where our public service is languishing a
little bit or delaying things.”

He
said treatment of Chinese state-owned firms “would be on the table” in any trade
talks with China’s new ambassador in Ottawa, Lu Shaye, who recently said Beijing wants unfettered
access to Canada for all of its companies.

But
Mr. McCallum
said Canada already has solid rules to regulate foreign money. “We have certain
rules about national-security tests, about net-benefit tests,” he said. “But
other things being equal, more foreign investment creates more jobs and that’s a
good thing.”

He
nonetheless agreed with his Chinese counterpart, Mr. Lu, who said “democracy or
human rights” had no place in trade talks. Trade talks can touch on
environmental and labour issues, Mr. McCallum said. But “it’s not clear to me that
human rights, per se, are a
part of a free-trade agreement.”

Still,
“we’re not going to relent” on human-rights issues, he said, describing a desire
to “walk and chew gum at the same time,” pursuing economic expansion while
holding the line on values issues.

“The
human-rights component of our foreign policy is fundamental, has been forever.
And I don’t think we’re going to sacrifice that for economic
reasons.”



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