Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he wants to sell energy to China, but he won’t sacrifice “national values” in the process.
In front of 600 people at a Canada-Chinese business dinner in Guangzhou today, as his five-day state visit nears an end, Harper said Canadian interests rest with economic diversity and human rights.
“Canada does not — and cannot — disconnect our trading relationship from fundamental national values,” Harper said, the National Post reported. “Therefore, in relations between China and Canada, you should expect us to continue to raise issues of fundamental freedoms and human rights and to be a vocal advocate for these, just as we will be an effective partner in our growing and mutually beneficial economic relationship.”
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He also encouraged China to act responsibly on the world stage, drawing specific attention to the environment and China’s recent veto of a UN Security Council resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s resignation.
“Canadians also demand that their government be a responsible global citizen in dealing with the peace and security challenges that confront the world,” Harper said. “And, wherever we can, urge other governments, including global actors like China, to do the same.”
It was the strongest words Harper has delivered in relation to China, and somewhat surprising considering his stance at home.
A proposed oil and gas pipeline from the oilsands in northern Alberta to ports in British Columbia has come under intense debate in Canada. Aboriginal and environmental groups say the pipeline would cut through sensitive forests and leave on tankers sailing through fragile coastal ecosystems. A spill would be disastrous, they say.
The Northern Gateway pipeline project is now under review, and Environment Minister Joe Oliver said the Conservatives wouldn’t let foreign interests, “radicals” and “jet-setting” Hollywood celebrities “hijack” the process, CBC said.
However, Harper’s tough stance in China may have been ignored, The Globe and Mail said. None of China’s influential politicians was in the room to hear him speak.
He then heard from Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, who suggested Canada and China seek “common ground while shelving differences.”
Many expect Harper’s visit to end Saturday on a high. The Chinese government has promised two pandas for Canadian zoos on a five-year loan.
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