During this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in northern California, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized the importance of maintaining communication between Canada and China. Trudeau’s comments came after a chance encounter with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which he advocated for constructive dialogue on global issues.
Xi Jinping’s extensive four-hour meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden was a highlight of the APEC summit, which revolved around creating an economic counterbalance against China’s growing influence.
Trudeau’s impromptu interaction with Xi, though brief, offered him an opportunity for diplomatic outreach. He conveyed the necessity for Canadian officials and teams to collaborate and engage in discussions on matters of mutual concern and global significance. Trudeau stressed the importance of Canada’s engagement with countries, even those with differing viewpoints.
When asked about Xi’s response to his remarks, Trudeau confirmed that Xi acknowledged the message.
Xi Jinping adopted a conciliatory tone throughout the summit, acknowledging U.S. concerns regarding the flow of illegal fentanyl from China and emphasizing the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between his military and the Pentagon. He expressed China’s readiness to be a partner and friend of the United States.
Trudeau, however, noted that it is too early to predict whether the same sentiment will apply to Canada. He referred to the U.S.-China meeting as a positive sign but emphasized the diversity of APEC member countries, highlighting the importance of candid conversations and cooperation.
Trudeau acknowledged that Canada would continue engaging with China at various levels but remain firmly grounded in its principles and values.
Relations between Canada and China became strained in late 2018 when Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, at the request of U.S. authorities. Subsequently, two Canadian citizens, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, were detained in China, leading to a prolonged diplomatic standoff. China also imposed bans on Canadian beef and canola imports and restricted group travel from Canada.
Despite these challenges, Trudeau underlined China’s importance as a global player and emphasized the need to find constructive ways to engage with the country.
In September, Ottawa initiated a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian electoral processes and democratic institutions, singling out “China, Russia, and other foreign states or nonstate actors.” This move reflects Canada’s ongoing concerns about foreign interference.
During the summit, Trudeau engaged in bilateral meetings with leaders from various countries, including Japan, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Mexico. He also met with California Governor Gavin Newsom and had a special encounter with Anwar Ibrahim, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, who expressed gratitude for Canada’s support during his difficult years.
Trudeau further hosted a roundtable discussion with Canadian and U.S. food producers, academics, and tech experts to address challenges related to affordability and supply chains, emphasizing the importance of confronting these issues.