China and Canada pledge support for FTA despite lack of progress on formal talks

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Canada and China have affirmed their commitment to a new trade agreement, but efforts to secure the start of formal talks on a deal have continued to prove fruitless.

The governments of China and Canada have failed to secure a date to commence formal talks over a new free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has completed a visit to Beijing to speak with China's state council premier Li Keqiang, during which a number of partnership agreements were confirmed, but an official plan for negotiating a new FTA remained out of reach.

Although the meeting yielded a new joint statement on climate change and clean growth, a pledge to increase collaboration on agriculture and tourism, and a fresh pledge to tackle the opioid threat, the leaders remain unwilling to commit to anything more on trade beyond a continuation of "exploratory discussions" towards a comprehensive trade deal.

The prime minister explained that Canada wants to ensure that any trade deal conforms to its progressive ideals with the inclusion of specific chapters on gender, environmental and labor issues, while China is keen to set a positive precedent for what would be its first trade deal with a G7 country.

Mr Trudeau said: "I look forward to continuing discussions towards a comprehensive trade agreement, which will open up greater opportunities for people on both sides of the Pacific."

Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada's minister of international trade, added: "Increasing trade and investment with our partners in the Asia-Pacific region is essential if we are to create long-term prosperity and an economy that creates jobs and works for the middle class."

China is currently Canada's second-largest trading partner, with Canadian merchandise exports to China reaching almost $21 billion (€17.82 billion) in 2016, an increase of four per cent over 2015. Top exports included forest and agricultural products, copper and iron ores, and motor vehicles.