Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he wants to deepen economic ties between Canada and China, but that it will be up to the eastern nation to show its willingness to "play by the same rules."
Harper made his comments Thursday while speaking at Bloomberg's Canada-Asia Dialogue conference in Vancouver. The brief stopover was made ahead of his trip to Russia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Leaders' Summit, where Chinese President Hu Jintao will also be in attendance.
Bloomberg anchor and editor-at-large Erik Schatzker sat down with Harper for a Q&A session, where they discussed Canada's economic relationship with Asia, the ongoing debt crisis in Europe and the U.S. energy policy.
During the half-hour discussion, Harper spoke primarily about building trade relations around the world, particularly with China.
"We want to see this economic relationship continue to expand," he said. "But we want to see it expand in a way that there's a clear two-way flow and clear benefits for both sides. Win-win to use the Chinese expression."
Harper also addressed concerns over a proposed deal by China National Offshore Oil Corp. to buy Calgary-based Nexen Inc. for $15.1 billion. The deal is currently going through a governmental review process.
- China's Nexen offer hard for Ottawa to refuse
He acknowledged that there is some distrust among Canadians who are wary of China's differing political economy and state-owned enterprises. He said that going forward, China will have to show that it will play by the same rules.
"We can't make it a prerequisite of doing business that they've got to become just like us. But we do have to accept that there are differences and factor those differences into how we conduct ourselves."
Trade is expected to top the agenda at this week's APEC Summit in Russia, where food security and innovation will also be discussed. Other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have also expressed interest in expanding into Asian markets.
"That's where it all is," Len Edwards, of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, told CBC's The National. "It you look globally it is the region that will have the highest growth rates going forward."
Harper talks PQ win
Harper also publicly commented on the Parti Québécois election win for the first time since party Leader Pauline Marois' victory speech on Tuesday.
- Marois declares PQ priorities as Charest resigns
"I think anybody who is following this pretty carefully will see in the results that the people of Quebec voted for change. It was a pretty strong desire for change," Harper told the room of Canadian and Asian business leaders.
"At the same time, I think it was pretty clear they were denying any kind of a mandate to pursue the separation of Quebec or the division of the country."
Marois has said that she wants to transfer some federal powers to the province in areas such as labour, culture and immigration.
"I've indicated to the premier, as with all provinces, we will continue to be focused on the interests of the Canadian economy," Harper said Thursday, pointing to job creation, long-term prosperity and economic growth as priorities. "That's going to be our focus, it's our focus across the country."
Outside the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel where the conference was held, a crowd gathered protesting diverse issues such as labour unions, election fraud, the environment and the Northern Gateway pipeline.
According to the Bloomberg website, the one-day event brings together policy makers and executives from across Canada and the Asia-Pacific region. Other speakers included Rio Tinto Alcan chief executive Jacynthe Côté and Jim Prentice, senior executive vice-president of CIBC.
Harper will now head to Vladivostok, near Russia's borders with China and North Korea. The city will play host to world leaders during the APEC Summit on Sept. 8 and 9.
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