02/08/2012 07:38 EST

Stephen Harper China Trip: After 18 Years Of Talks, Canada Inks Foreign Investment Deal With China


BEIJING -- Nearly 20 years of negotiations on an investment protection deal for Chinese and Canadian investors has come to a close.

The prime minister says negotiations on a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement between the two countries are over.

The deal still needs to be legally reviewed and ratified by the Canadian and Chinese governments before it can come into force.


A FIPA, as it is known, gives foreign investors equal footing with domestic businesses in either country and business groups had been urging Harper to wrap up talks with China in order to spur greater investment between the two countries.

Canada and China had been negotiating a FIPA since 1994 and by January 2010, a dozen rounds of talks had failed to produce an agreement.

By the end of 2010, Canadian investment in China increased by 38 per cent over 2009 levels. That same year, Chinese investment in Canada totalled $14 billion, an increase of nine per cent.

The announcement was part of a slate of new deals signed between Canada and China at the end of Stephen Harper's first day of a four-day tour through the country.

They include agreements to move co-operate on energy, natural resources, education, science and technology, and agriculture.

"The rapidly increasing commercial, cultural and scholastic ties between our two countries are creating new jobs and economic growth that are benefiting Canadian families, businesses and communities,'' Harper said in a statement.

"The agreements being signed today, in such a wide range of areas, are further testimony that we are taking relations to the next level and further strengthening our strategic partnership.''

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

The mascot for the Calgary Stampede tried Wednesday 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, Prime Minister Stephen 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 goal on this trip: harvesting more of China's wealth via it's tourism, business and education sectors.

In an editorial, a Chinese state newspaper says 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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