• It would be ‘irresponsible’ not to see China as critical
  • Canada can help China ease worries on world stage: Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began a week-long visit to China with a pledge to open up his economy to Chinese investment and deepen ties with the Asian country.

Speaking at an event hosted by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Jack Ma just hours after landing in Beijing, Trudeau said China’s key role in the global economy means it can’t be ignored by countries like Canada. While he didn’t directly mention predecessor Stephen Harper, who had sought to stem Chinese influence on the Canadian economy, Trudeau said that overlooking China is a mistake.

“Any economic strategy that ignores China or that treats that valuable relationship as anything less than critically important is not just short sighted, it’s irresponsible,” Trudeau said in an opening statement before he took questions from an audience of Chinese entrepreneurs. “It’s important that global business leaders like you know that Canada is a good place to invest, that we’re open for business.”

The pro-China rhetoric on the first day of Trudeau’s trip is setting the tone for a visit that will include official meetings with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping, trips to Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as the summit of Group of 20 leaders that starts Sunday in Hangzhou.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

Trudeau’s governing Liberals are largely delivering on a pledge to place China at the center of Canada’s trade diplomacy. That contrasts with Harper’s strategy of easing investment restrictions with the country’s historical trade partners -- North America, Europe, Japan -- while impacting scrutiny of investments in emerging markets such as China.

Trudeau didn’t comment specifically, nor was he asked, if he would ease restrictions imposed by Harper. He did say he was “looking favorably” at Canada becoming a member of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Canada’s growing openness to China could in fact help the Asian country ease global worries about its trade practices, Trudeau said.

“Around the world, there is anxiety around change, there is anxiety around China,” Trudeau said. “Canada, through the fact that we are more open to trade than other countries are right now, have a deep friendship and a strong relationship with China that goes back generations, are in a position to help China position itself in a very positive way on the world stage.”

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