Exploratory talks over a potential free trade agreement (FTA) between China and Canada have commenced, the leaders of the two countries have confirmed.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese premier Li Keqiang recently attended the signing ceremony for a series of bilateral cooperation agreements, highlighting the progress being made towards a closer economic relationship between the nations.
Relations between China and Canada have been mixed in the past, with Mr Trudeau criticizing his predecessor Stephen Harper for his "hot and cold" approach to his government's dealings with the Asian superpower. Mr Harper was a vocal critic of China's human rights record, placed investment restrictions on Chinese businesses and accused the country of cyber attacks, while also failing to attend the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Although Mr Harper subsequently softened this stance, Mr Trudeau has demonstrated an ambition to take this much further, with a stated intention of doubling the value of two-way trade between China and Canada by 2025. As of 2015, this stood at $46 billion (€41.01 billion).
To underline this commitment, the countries have been able to reach a solution to a dispute over the sale of Canadian canola to China. The Asian nation had previously warned that it may impose tighter certification standards for imports, which would have had serious repercussions on Canada as the world's top grower of canola.
However, the Canadian prime minister said a "predictable, science-based and stable solution to ensure access to the Chinese market by Canadian canola exporters through early 2020" has now been found.
Additionally, a deal to support the resumption of Chinese imports of Canadian beef has also been struck, all of which will help to grease the wheels of future FTA talks.
Mr Trudeau said: "We are very pleased about the nature and the stability that we have been able to bring to the China-Canada relationship."