Chinese leaders meet Canadian prime minister to cement ties

President Hu believed Canadian PM's visit to China would push bilateral relationship to a new level.

Hu said the visit, which was the first to China since Harper took office, was of great significance.

Premier Wen Jiabao expected Harper's visit to turn a new page for China-Canada relations.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said Thursday he believed Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's China trip would push forward bilateral cooperation to a new level.

In his meeting with Harper in the Great Hall of the People, Hu said Harper's tour, which marks his first visit to China since he took office in 2006, was "of great significance."

"China is ready to work with Canada to cement dialogues, exchanges and cooperation in various areas, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and properly handle sensitive issues between both sides," said the Chinese president.

Hu urged both sides to stick to the principle of mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and non-interference in each other's internal affairs, and step up healthy and "sustained" development of China-Canada friendly and cooperative ties.

Harper said the two countries had "good and frank relationship" and diplomatic relations which were approaching 40 years, and enjoyed expanded trade cooperation.

"I am sure the visit will help further those relations in the future," he added.

Harper told Hu he had wanted to visit China since he was a boy.

Harper said his government sticks to the one-China policy and respects China's territorial integrity, and would like to treat and boost bilateral cooperation from a long-term perspective.

Hu called on the two countries to further expand trade, economic and technology cooperation, and oppose protectionism of trade and investment.

He also urged to enhance coordination in international affairs and strengthen cultural links between the two Asia-Pacific countries, especially youth exchanges, to deepen understandings and friendship between the two peoples.

Harper agreed with Hu's proposals to enhance bilateral ties, adding his country is to work closely with China to fight against trade protectionism, promote economic growth, strengthen cultural exchanges and multilateral cooperation.

Canada is glad to see China's growing influence in international affairs, Harper said, urging both countries to boost trade, energy and environmental cooperation.

To meet with Chinese leaders to step up trade cooperation and comprehensive ties are top on agenda of Harper's five-day official visit.

Premier Wen Jiabao expected Harper's visit to turn a new page for China-Canada relations.

"It is not only your first visit to China, but also the first meeting between prime ministers of China and Canada in almost five years," Wen told Harper in their talks later on Thursday.

"It was too long a time for bilateral relations, that was why there were comments in media that the visit was the one that should take place earlier," said Wen.

The Chinese premier recalled his last visit to Canada in 2003,in which he expressed a wish that the two countries would set an example for long-lasting friendly cooperation between countries of different systems and development levels.

Harper agreed that five years' time was too long, calling on both sides to take the opportunity of the 40th anniversary to further cement ties.

Harper, who kicked off his visit on Wednesday, was scheduled to meet with top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo on Friday. His China trip will also take him to Shanghai and Hong Kong.