07/18/2011 10:35 EDT | Updated 09/17/2011 05:12 EDT

John Baird's China Visit Agenda Not Just About Trade


OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says relations with China continue to improve and he hopes for increased investment and trade in the future.

Baird is in Beijing on his first visit to China as foreign minister.

He says he discussed trade, investment and human rights issues during his meeting with Yang Jiechi, his Chinese counterpart.

In a teleconference from the Chinese capital, Baird said he told the Chinese authorities that an extradition case involving one of China’s most-wanted fugitives will have to go through normal channels.

Fugitive Chinese financier Lai Changxing is in jail in Canada and has been fighting extradition for more than a decade. He is accused of masterminding a multibillion-dollar smuggling network.

Baird says the Canadian legal system will deal with the case and that he has no role in the matter.

The minister said he sees engagement and discussion as the keys to continuing to improve relations between the two countries.

The Conservative government has been criticized for letting ties with China slip some years ago, but Baird says that has changed.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited China two years ago and the relationship has grown since then, Baird says.

"China is our second-largest trading partner," he said. "We have significant Chinese investment in Canada, $14 billion versus $4 billion of Canadian investment in China."

His visit, he said, will "underline the importance that I and the government place in the relationship."

The ministers discussed Chinese investment in Canada's natural resource sector.

"We welcome more of that," he said. "Our government will always be prepared to stand up for the national interest when things are not of net benefit to Canada but, thus far, the assessments made have been that the Chinese investment is of net benefit to Canada."

Baird is to leave China on Thursday and fly to Bali, Indonesia for a meeting of ASEAN ministers.