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Canada-China trade rises strongly in 2007, not affected by new human rights emphasis

January 11, 2008

Associated Press Writer
Jan. 7, 2008, 8:43AM

BEIJING — Canadian exports to China grew strongly last year, Canada's
trade minister said Monday, despite Ottawa's increased focus on human
rights _ a stance that risks irking Beijing.

Exports rose about 27 percent according to preliminary figures, David
Emerson said following a ceremony to open a new Canadian Embassy
commercial annex in Beijing.

"We're starting to the turn the corner. It's not where you want it to
be, but you've got to start somewhere," Emerson said, referring to a
trade deficit with China that reached 26.8 billion Canadian dollars in 2006.

Emerson said there had been no sign of Chinese retaliation against
Canadian business following a recent meeting between Canada's Prime
Minister Stephen Harper and the Dalai Lama _ the first time a Canadian
prime minister has met at federal government offices with the Tibetan
spiritual leader, who is reviled by China.

China claims that the Dalai Lama's campaign to preserve Tibet's unique
Buddhist culture is an attempt to end Chinese rule in the Himalayan
region, occupied by Chinese Communist troops since 1951.

Similar meetings between the Dalai Lama and other leaders, including
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President George W. Bush, have
drawn political and economic retaliation from Beijing.

However, asked if the October meeting had resulted in specific Chinese
threats against Canadian business, Emerson said, "None that have been
directed at me."

"They've been outspoken about that," Emerson said, however,
acknowledging China's irritation over Harper's meeting with the Dalai Lama.

"I do not believe that it will fundamentally derail the relationship,"
he said.

Two-way trade between Canada and China hit 42.1 billion Canadian dollars
in 2006. That was the equivalent of $35.7 billion (24.25 billion euros)
at the end of 2006.

The trade level made China Canada's second-largest export market after
the United States, according to Emerson's ministry.

"We are of the view that Canada has underperformed over the last 10-15
years in terms of trade with China and our export performance in
particular," Emerson said.

He said Canada hoped to close the trade gap with agreements intended to
boost air transport, tourism and investment.

Later this week Emerson was to visit Mongolia, where he said Canada has
become the second-largest foreign investor after China. Canadian mining
companies have been increasingly attracted to copper and other mineral
resources in the landlocked nation on China's northern border.
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