Canada, China agree to extension in canola dispute, says Trudeau

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says existing rules with China on canola exports have been extended beyond a Sept. 1 deadline as the two countries continue to negotiate a long-term solution.​

The two countries disagree on the level of “dockage” — foreign material such as weeds, other crops and detritus — that should be considered acceptable in Canada’s canola exports to China.

The Chinese government had given Canada until Thursday to cut the level of foreign material in its deliveries by more than half.

Trudeau made the announcement about the extension in Beijing, where the canola dispute was expected to dominate the trade agenda during his high-level meetings and the G20, which gets underway later this week.

Government negotiators in China said Tuesday they were working hard to resolve the dispute involving billions of dollars worth of canola shipments.

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland previously said the issue was of “absolute importance” to the Canada-Chinese trade relationship.

“As everyone knows, this was something that was a very difficult issue for our canola growers, for our canola exporters and we were very, very pleased to be able to achieve today, and hear directly from the Chinese premier, that Canadian canola shipments can continue tomorrow, Sept. 1 and onwards, under current terms,” Freeland said Wednesday after the extension was announced.

She said the two sides have also agreed to work towards a long-term agreement on rules for Canadian canola shipments. Freeland added that Canada hopes to achieve this in the coming days and weeks.

China’s ambassador to Canada, Luo Zhaohui, has stated that Canada has been inflexible and unfair in its approach to talks that began about seven years ago over Chinese concerns about rules for the make-up of canola shipments.

Luo said China buys 87 per cent of its canola from Canada because of its good quality and production. But he warned China can always look elsewhere for the product, if necessary.

Detained Canadian

Li also said on Wednesday that a Canadian citizen detained in China for two years on suspicion of spying would be treated humanely, and his case would be handled in accordance with the law.

In January, China indicted Canadian citizen Kevin Garratt on charges of spying and stealing state secrets. He was detained in August 2014 near China’s sensitive border with North Korea.

Garratt family

Kevin and Julia Dawn Garratt, shown here flanked by their son Peter and daughter Hannah, were detained in Aug. 2014 near the border with North Korea. They were accused of stealing Chinese military secrets. Julia Garratt was released on bail on Feb. 5, 2015. (Simeon Garratt)

Asked about the Garratt case, Li told a joint news conference with Trudeau that China and Canada would continue to communicate on the matter.

Garratt’s family said on Wednesday they were “extremely frustrated and disappointed” with the lack on progress in freeing him.

“Kevin should be released to allow the two countries to move forward to develop stronger ties and cooperation on many levels,” the family said in a statement released by their Beijing-based lawyers.

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Canada, China agree to extension in canola dispute, says Trudeau

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