In this edition: Canadian industries look to grow in China despite current tensions; what the new Canadian foreign minister may mean for the relationship with China; and the impact of falling vegetable oil stocks on Canadian canola.

So is China a competitor or an adversary?” – Murray Brewster, CBC

Canadian industries making headway in China

• The B.C. forest industry made further inroads into China during a trade mission this week. B.C. Forest Minister Doug Donaldson said that diplomatic tensions “have eased” with China, at least enough to visit China and talk forest trade projects (a similar trip was planned last December but the delegation did not stop in China due to diplomatic tensions).

• China is Canada’s fourth-largest forest products market, taking 28% of B.C.’s exports in this category, primarily in lumber.

• Representatives of Canada’s red meat industry were also recently in China, on the heels of the reopening of the market for Canadian beef and pork products.

• The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) recently released its annual report of intellectual property trends in Canada. It noted that Canadian companies filing trademark applications in China has skyrocketed in the last decade – in 2018 there were 3401 Canadian trademark applications in China, a 265% increase since 2008, and 17% of all Canadian international trademark applications.

• The B.C. companies that took part in the China International Import Expo in Shanghai noted that the general Canadian interest in doing business in China is low – but for companies that are already in the market, they do not have any plans to turn back.

Vegetable oil

• China’s total vegetable oil stocks are set to decline 69% from 2015-16 levels by 2019-20, led by the massive fall in canola oil stocks.

• China has three main sources of vegetable oil: soybean, canola, and palm oil. Soybean and canola stocks have fallen; while palm oil has been able to make up some of the difference, there is still a drop in overall vegetable oil stocks in China.

• Much of this is caused by trade tensions China has with Canada and other countries.

• Analysts say this may help push canola prices up, but it would take some time and a further drop in vegetable oil stocks. This may have been a factor in bumping up soybean prices slightly.

Speaking of canola and soybeans…

• I was on Global news recently (Calgary edition and Global National) talking about the China bans and why I don’t see it lifting anytime soon.

New foreign minister

• Canada’s new Foreign Minister, François-Philippe Champagne – who has been in the job less than a week – met with his Chinese counterpart on Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Minister’s meeting in Japan.

• Champagne said he pressed his Chinese counterpart on the cases on Canadian detainees in China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who are widely seen to be detained as a form of retaliation on Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

• Minister Wang, according to Chinese state media, had a different take on the meeting: “The current grave difficulty in China-Canada relations lies in the arbitrary detention of a Chinese citizen on groundless charges by the Canadian side in December last year, Wang said, adding the Chinese government’s determination to protect the just and legitimate rights and interests of its citizens and enterprises is unshakable.”

• It is possible that new ministers relevant to the China file will help make a “fresh start” in the relationship – with Minister Champagne, but also with Minister Mary Ng, whose portfolio includes small business, export promotion, and international trade.

Opinion pieces

There have been a large number of op-eds on the Canada-China relationship in the last few weeks, with most of them focusing on how Canada should manage its relationship with China – these are some of the ones that caught my eye (if you see an interesting one I didn’t include, send it my way!)

John Ibbitson argues that Canada’s foreign policy must focus on “containing threats” to Canada, particularly from the United States and China.

Matthew Fisher argues that how to deal with China will be “the major preoccupation of Canadian … governments for the rest of this century.”

Colin Robertson argues that trade diversification – beyond China and the U.S. – should be the biggest priority for the new government.

Michael Byers argues that, the way for Canada to break out of its “China traps” is by releasing Meng Wanzhou and by banning Huawei 5G equipment in Canada.

• A longer commentary by Margaret McCuaig-Johnston from MacDonald-Laurier Institute argues that Canada should take a more aggressive stance with China, including not drumming up new business in China and more direct engagement with Taiwan, among others.

Wendy Dobson argues that, although many Western countries have expected China to become more liberal and “Western,” this will not happen, and that Canada is the one that must change and adapt to China, not the other way around.

Terry Glavin argues that Canada’s new Foreign Minister, François-Philippe Champagne, is likely to be “softer” on China than his predecessor, Chrystia Freeland, was. He also argued that Canada is being “meek and gentle” with China.

Robyn Urback argues that Canada has “lost its voice” on speaking on human rights in China.

Murray Brewster wrote an analysis that argues so-called Western countries haven’t yet defined what China means to them – in other words, do they see China as a friend or a foe?


• A recent under-the-radar delegation to China, led by Gordon Houlden of the China Institute and including people such as former minister John Baird and Allan Rock, met with Chinese officials to warn them about “plummeting” Canadian public opinion on China.

• According to Houlden, “Are they [the Chinese government] unhappy that the image of their country has plummeted? I guarantee that is the case. Whether that translates into a desire to immediately improve things by releasing the two (Canadian detainees) is another story.”

• A chain of supermarkets in B.C. and Ontario frequented by Chinese communities may soon install facial recognition software as a way for customers to pay for their goods (the camera would recognize them and link to their account).

– Sarah Pittman, policy analyst

The China Brief is a compilation of stories and links related to China and its relationship with Canada’s West. The opinions expressed in the links are those of the articles’ authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the Canada West Foundation and our affiliates.