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Seize the Opportunity and Promote All-Round Development of China-Canada Relations

--Keynote Speech by H.E. Luo Zhaohui
Ambassador of the People's Republic of China at the Rideau Club

Ottawa, 3 December 2015

President of the Rideau Club, Madame Josephine Palumbo,
Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Jean,
Assistant Deputy Foreign Minister Susan Gregson, Ambassador Nicolas Chapuis,
Mr. Lin Peng,
Honourable Guests,

It is a pleasure to be here with you at this historical club. I enjoy the opportunity to meet so many new friends as well as the delicious food. I understand there is no free lunch. I will be most pleased to host Rideau Club friends at my residence. I would also like to share with you my thoughts on China-Canada relations as a way to reciprocate your kind hospitality.

Recently Canadian media have been talking a lot about two words. One is "change" or "real change," which means the Liberal government has made a comeback. The other is "back," or "Canada is back", meaning Canada is back on the world's stage. The diplomatic community in Ottawa has taken note of the meaning of these words with great interest.

Some Canadian media keep asking me if I have greater expectations for China-Canada relations after Canada's new government took office. My answer is YES. Our optimism is well founded.

First, while China has all along attached great importance to its relations with Canada, Canadian governments under the Liberal Party have traditionally attached equal importance to Canada-China relations.

In the early 1960s, Canada took the lead in breaking the Western trade embargo against China, exporting wheat to China. Canada's wheat export was a timely help to the Chinese people, just like "sending firewood in a snowy winter".

In 1970, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, with extraordinary political vision, made the historic decision to establish diplomatic ties with China, making Canada one of the first major Western nations to recognise new China.

In the 1990s, during the premiership of Jean Chrétien, two CANDU reactors were exported to China. The CANDU project is a milestone in China-Canada cooperation.

In 2005, during the premiership of Paul Martin, Canada and China launched their strategic partnership.

We have reason to believe that with the new Canadian government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, China-Canada relations will be stronger and have a brighter future.

Secondly, a good start has been made in China-Canada relations since the Liberal government took office.

Shortly after the Liberals' electoral victory, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had a phone conversation with the prime minister-designate, Justin Trudeau, on 28 October.

On 16 November, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Turkey. This was their first meeting.

The foreign ministers of our two countries held formal talks in the margins of APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Manila.

The signal sent out from these meetings and talks has been positive. Leaders of our two countries have agreed to strengthen the China-Canada strategic partnership, charting the way forward for what we should do next to grow bilateral cooperation.

Thirdly, thanks to the joint efforts of both sides, including the government under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper over the last decade, a solid foundation has been laid for the development of China-Canada relations.

On the front of trade, China has been Canada's second largest trading partner for many years. Last year, our bilateral trade was valued at US$ 55.2 billion.

The China-Canada Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement came into force in October 2014. As of the end of the last year, China's total investment in Canada was US$ 58.3 billion.

Good things never come alone. In 2015, we have made headway in a number of areas of practical cooperation. The first RMB clearing centre in North America is up and running in Toronto. The Beijing-Montreal non-stop flights have taken off. Long term visas have been issued.

There are now over 110,000 Chinese students studying in Canada. The 2015-2016 China-Canada year of people-to-people and cultural exchanges is now in full swing. Chinese outbound tourists to Canada reached almost half a million last year.

I have worked in Canada for one year and a half. I have been to all Canada's provinces and territories except Nunavut. During my visits, I have heard a lot of stories about our mutually beneficial cooperation.

The Clearwater Company in Nova Scotia told me the story of how its live lobsters were exported to China. When I was in the Northwest Territories, I learnt the story of Chinese tourists travelling to the Arctic on an expedition and aurora tour. I have also learnt the story of how Canadian experts help Chinese farmers increase oat production dramatically. Bombardier has lots of cooperation with China. Two days ago, I hosted a charity dinner for Hospice Care Ottawa and learned a lot about Canada's practice and experience in the end-of-life care services.

Fourthly, China's all-round and deep-going reform and its further opening-up has created and will continue to bring about more and better opportunities for the growth of China-Canada relations.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China has just adopted the proposal of China's 13th five-year (2016-2020) plan for social and economic development, which sets forth five principles of development, i.e. innovation, coordination, green development, opening up and inclusiveness.

Under these five principles, China is pressing ahead with its new type of industrialisation, IT application, urbanisation, and agricultural modernisation. China is also promoting the development of a land-based "Silk Road Economic Belt" and an oceangoing "21st Century Maritime Silk Road".

These principles and initiatives of ours tally with the Canadian new government's economic platform in many aspects, such as innovation-driven growth, the green economy, support to small and micro-businesses, and the development of the Arctic. This provides a good basis for the two countries to learn from each other and work together to develop mutually beneficial cooperation and pursue shared development.

Great changes have taken place over the last ten years. China and Canada are no longer what they were ten years ago. China is now the world's 2nd largest economy, the largest in Asia. Frankly speaking, China-Canada relations are lagging far behind China's relations with other Western countries. We need to do a lot of hard work to catch up with other G7 countries.

What shall we do next to bring forward our relations?

First, it is important to maintain and increase high-level exchanges between the two countries. Face-to-face meeting between our leaders plays a strategically leading role for the progress of our bilateral relations. The two sides need to work towards an early exchange of visits between our leaders and arrange for more communication between our leaders at multilateral forums. We also need to develop and ensure a sound and smooth high-level working relationship between the two countries. We are expecting one of our principal leaders to visit Canada and your leader to visit China and attend G20 Summit in Hangzhou. The China-Canada Joint Economic and Trade Commission and the China-Canada Joint Committee on Science and Technology will soon meet.

Second, it is important to enhance cooperation on the ground between our two countries. At the policy level, we need to start the negotiation and conclusion of a free trade agreement (FTA) sooner rather than later. FTA means more exports and more jobs for Canada. Last year, our two-way trade accounted for only 1.2 per cent of China's total foreign trade.

We need to speed up the process of building a China-Canada maritime energy corridor, and work together to cultivate and create new highlights of cooperation in energy resources, infrastructure development, new manufacturing industry, and the green economy. We also need to consider and promote large-scale projects in areas of nuclear power, high speed rails, and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Two days ago, I called on the new minister of agriculture. We discussed how to sell Canadian agri-products through e-commerce in China. On "11-11" singles day or Chinese version of Black Friday on 11 November last year, 90,000 live lobsters from Canada were sold to China through the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Third, it is important to deepen cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Dr. Norman Bethune is a household name in China. He is a great symbol of our friendship. More than 1.5 million Chinese Canadians are living on this land. This gives us an advantage in promoting mutual understanding.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Canada. A variety of celebrations have been held to mark the occasion. We are working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs in preparing a reception to mark the anniversary. A photo exhibition of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's China visits will be on display on the same occasion.

Fourth, it is important to pay attention to each other's major concerns. It is only natural that China and Canada have differences on some issues. We should handle and address sensitive issues from a long-term and strategic perspective. In case of any discord in our relations, we should handle and address them objectively, sensibly and rationally. We should not deviate from dialogue and cooperation which I believe remains the mainstream of our relations. We should promote the growth of positive factors to offset negative factors. We need to correctly guide public opinion and always foster and promote a sound and enabling atmosphere and environment for the development of our relations.

Canada's winter is coming. I still remember when last winter ended, many friends joked with me, "How did you survive your first winter in Canada?" I said, I enjoy the cold winter here. I look forward to a colder winter and a warmer relationship between our two countries.

Thank you.

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