Harper Visit To China: Prime Minister Touts Canada As Tourism Destination

Harper China Tourism

First Posted: 02/ 8/2012 4:00 am Updated: 02/10/2012 10:40 am

BEIJING, China - The conclusion of 18 years of talks with the Chinese for an investment protection deal marks a historic step forward in Canada-China relations, the prime minister said Wednesday.

At the end of his first full day in China, Stephen Harper held up the foreign investment promotion and protection deal as the result of legwork to repair a bruised relationship between the two countries.

"My sense is the willingness of the Chinese to conclude this agreement indicates to me that they do put increasing strategic importance on two-way investment between our countries," he told reporters.

A foreign investment promotion and protection deal, or FIPA, gives foreign investors assurances they'll be treated the same as domestic companies and allows for arbitration at an international tribunal-type body in disputes.

Details of the agreement were not released. It still has to undergo legal review by both countries and be ratified before it can come into force. In Canada, that will include debate in the House of Commons.

The deal was one of several signed on Harper's first full day of a three-city tour of China, his second visit since being elected prime minister.

His relationship with the Chinese leadership started off rocky, with Harper taking an aggressive stand on human rights that irked the Chinese.

But his first visit in 2009 turned a page, said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the start of a bilateral meeting with Harper on Wednesday afternoon.

He said he hoped this visit could elevate the relationship further.

"At present, the international situation is undergoing profound and complex changes," Wen said, through a translator.

"Strengthening communication and co-operation is our shared aspiration and also serves the fundamental interests of our two countries."

While Harper sat down with Wen to talk economics, at least half the meeting was spent on other topics.

Harper did raise concerns about China's decision to veto a UN Security Council resolution that would have applied greater pressure on Syria in the wake of increased violence in that country.

"I raised, in very clear and strong terms, Canada's position on this issue," Harper told reporters.

"We would hope to see in the future action from the Security Council."

The media, both Chinese and Canadian, had been escorted out of the open portion of the talks just as Harper was about to indicate his intent to raise human rights issues.

Officials said Harper also raised the case of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen serving a life sentence for speaking out on behalf of China's Uighur minority, restating the government's desire to have consular access to him.

Other consular issues were discussed, officials said, but they declined to provide details.

Harper told reporters that Wednesday's talks were an example that it was possible to talk both economics and rights with the Chinese.

"My view has always been that as long as you're frank and respectful, it is in fact necessary to engage China as we would engage every other country on the entire range of issues," he said.

"I think the Chinese have gotten more comfortable with that position as we've gone forward and I think we are beginning to achieve things."

In addition to FIPA, several other deals were reached with the Chinese in the areas of energy, natural resources, education, science and technology, and agriculture.

Harper began his three-city tour of China with a little piece of home.

The mascot for the Calgary Stampede tried to teach a cluster of Chinese youth clad in white cowboy hats the traditional greeting of the summer festival.

They couldn't quite muster the "yahoo," but Harper's message was that Canada is more than ready to welcome the Chinese with their official greeting of nihao.

He helped launch a new tourism campaign for Canada at the China Youth Services Travel bureau, one of several national agencies now allowed to market Canada as an official tourist destination since Beijing gave Canada Approved Destination Status in 2009.

Since then, tourism to Canada has increased by 25 per cent.

"It is one of the few industries in the world whose raw material is goodwill and whose finished product is friendship," Harper said Wednesday in speech to a crowd that was a mix of Chinese officials and the Canadian delegation.

"And I think the world needs all the friendship and goodwill it can get."

The head of CYTS said the Chinese are already impressed with Canada's landscape and citizens.

"Travel is the best way to build bridges between people and countries," said Zhang Li Jun, through a translator.

Strolling out of Beijing's Temple of Heaven complex after a tour earlier Wednesday, Harper remarked on the magnificence of the buildings.

Centuries ago, they were used by emperors to pray for good harvests.

And it's fitting metaphor for the prime minister's overall goal on this trip: harvesting more of China's wealth via its tourism, business and education sectors.

In an editorial, a Chinese state newspaper said Harper's visit comes at an important moment in bilateral relations.

But in order to develop them, both sides need to treat each other with respect and appropriately handle sensitive issues, the China Daily said.

"It is hoped the two countries can make their relationship a model for relations between countries of different social systems and modes of development."

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  • Here are a few details of the major investment deal coming soon between Canada and China, as well as a list of what CBC chief political correspondent Terry Milewski calls a "small blizzard of incremental agreements," signed in Beijing. <em>With files from CBC</em>. (Diego Azubel-PoolGetty Images)

  • The Big One: FIPA

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement (FIPA) between Canada and China the first "comprehensive economic agreement" between the two countries. In fact, what was signed by Harper and Chinese Premier Wen Jaibao in Beijing is not the final deal, but a declaration of intent: Now it must be legally reviewed and ratified by both governments, which for Canada will mean a debate in the House of Commons. Once both countries complete this process, it will need to be formally signed to take effect. This deal will protect Canadians investing in China, as well as Chinese investors in Canada, from "discriminatory and arbitrary practices." Once in place, investors can have more confidence that rules will be enforced and valuable business deals will be subject to predictable legal practices. Harper told reporters in Beijing he "absolutely" expected that it will make a "practical difference." "The agreement does not override existing Canadian law in regard to foreign investment and foreign investment review," Harper said. "Those laws remain in place." Negotiations for this agreement took 18 years, and key players in manufacturing, mining and the financial sectors were consulted to get to this stage. It's not unusual for Canada to have this kind of an agreement with a trading partner. FIPAs are in force with 24 other countries that trade with Canada, and active negotiations are underway with 10 other countries, according to the government's announcement. (Diego Azubel-PoolGetty Images)

  • The 'Blizzard' (By Sector):

    (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)

  • Agriculture

    - A new protocol, building on a 2010 agreement to restore Canada's market access to the Chinese market for Canadian beef following the 2003 BSE outbreak and resulting border closures, to allow industrial beef tallow (fat) to be imported for the first time in almost a decade. China used to be Canada's top export market for tallow ($31 million in 2002), and now Canada has a shot at a share of the $400 million in tallow China imports from around the world. - A memorandum of understanding (MOU) on canola research, to address a recent fungal disease in canola and rapeseed that threatens Canada's valuable trading relationship with China in canola. - On Tuesday, Chinese aquaculture feed company Tongwei announced it will increase its purchase of Canadian canola by up to $240 million per year by 2015. (DAVID BUSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Natural Resources:

    - A MOU between Natural Resources Canada and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to collaborate on scientific research on sustainable development of natural resources. The government release touts benefits including new technologies for resource firms, carbon emissions reduction strategies, reduced environmental impacts and natural hazards from resource development, and new opportunities for Canadian suppliers of equipment and services. - A MOU spelling out a "framework" for Parks Canada and China's state forestry administration to collaborate and share scientific expertise in the management of national parks, natural reserves and other protected areas. The agreement includes language around ecological restoration, conservation measures for endangered wildlife, wetlands development, and the preservation of forests and wetlands. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/47096398@N08/" target="_hplink">Flickr: eleephotography</a>)

  • Energy

    - A continuation of the MOU, first signed in 2001 and renewed in 2006, on energy co-operation to "engage China on energy issues" through a Canada-China joint working group on energy co-operation, chaired by Natural Resources Canada and China's national energy administration, which is responsible for Chinese energy policy. The working group oversees joint research projects, exchange of expertise, and co-operation between energy companies in both countries, including the promotion of energy efficiency and renewables. It aims to both attract capital investment and improve market access for Canadian energy resources and technology. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Science and Technology

    - Approval of seven projects, valued at $10 million, under the Canada-China framework for co-operation on science and technology and innovation, including: a diagnostic kit for acute kidney injuries, a wind energy seawater desalination system, a waste heat-recovery system to help oil refineries consume less fuel, new solar cells for renewable energy panels, a real-time multi-sensor navigational tracking device for hand-held devices, a blue-green algae bloom warning system and "next generation" large-scale geographic information systems. - Two more calls for proposals, valued at $18 million ($9 million from each country) for joint research under the same framework. These proposals are for the development of "innovations with high commercial potential" in the areas of human vaccines and clean automotive transportation. The Canada-China joint committee on science and technology, made up of individuals from industry, academia and government, sets the priorities and oversees these projects. (To date, 21 projects ranging from nuclear power to AIDS drugs, to clean technologies for pulp and paper have received some $28 million in funding.) (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Education

    - A renewed MOU extending and modifying the Canada-China scholars' exchange program, which has seen 900 students travel between Canada and China since 1973. New eligibility rules and scholarships will be in place for the next round of competitions in 2012, including eight to 12 Canadian scholarships for Chinese professionals and 20 awards for Canadian university students. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/plutor/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Plutor</a>)

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