Canadian experts optimistic about Sino-Canadian cooperation

Cooperation between China and Canada will continue to grow as the two countries develop even stronger bilateral relations, experts said.

Three Canadian experts on China spoke on the topic after Prime Minister Stephen Harper concluded a recent visit, his second, to Beijing.

“We will see a far more substantial economic relationship between Canada and China over the course of the next five to ten years,” said Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta.

John Higginbotham, a senior fellow at Carleton University, said that Canada is well prepared for a new level of trade relations with China.

Canada’s pace of cooperation with China somehow slowed when Harper took in power in 2006.

A new page in China-Canada relations turned on his first visit to China as prime minister in 2009. Economic ties in trade, investment, tourism have been tightened, and people to people exchanges have been enhanced.

After the Harper government won the majority in the federal parliamentary election, it was eager to further strengthen ties with China, which Houlden considered as “not yet reached its full potential.”

“Now a concerted national effort is coming into focus,” Higginbotham said.

“Clearly the cornerstone of this government’s interest in China lies in diversifying the sources of investment and markets for our resource sector and especially energy,” said Jeremy Paltiel, a political science professor at Carleton University.

“We can also cooperate on building new green technologies, energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, cooperate on building new services in finance and telecommunications for a wealthier and better educated population, cooperate in China’s further opening and internationalization, we can also provide advice and examples for China’s ongoing legal, administrative and political reform,” he said.

During Harper’s visit, China and Canada signed a series of cooperative agreements in economics, energy, education, science and technology.

The conclusion of negotiations for the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement was considered the most valuable achievement during Harper’s visit. The protection agreement, when ratified, will serve to encourage further investment in both directions.

Houlden pointed out that the two countries’ energy collaboration enjoys bright prospects.

“Since Canada can offer China secure and stable energy supplies, while China can offer Canada market diversification for oil,” he said.

He believes that science and technology cooperation should also be improved in a “two-way street” since China’s research and development has developed rapidly.

Meanwhile, the experts encouraged more educational exchanges between the universities of the two countries because they play an important role in bilateral relations.

“I believe this is a very good way to consolidate our relationship and to weave strong bonds between our two countries based on human ties,” Paltiel said.

They especially hope more Canadian students will study in China.

However, there is no magic bullet on the way for taking advantage of the opportunities opened by agreements at the head of government and ministerial levels, Higginbotham said.

“Hard, detailed work by many in Canada and China in the private and public sectors will be essential,” he said.


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