Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau(left to right) stand in the Hall of Honour as they take part in a signing ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, September 22, 2016.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau(left to right) stand in the Hall of Honour as they take part in a signing ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, September 22, 2016.

Most Canadians ‘uncomfortable’ with prospect of free trade with China


Almost nine out of 10 Canadians are uncomfortable with the idea of deepening economic ties with China, and two-thirds want the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to tie any future trade deal with Beijing to progress in human rights, according to a new public opinion survey.

The Nanos Research survey of 1,000 Canadians conducted for The Globe and Mail last week showed that 88 per cent are “uncomfortable” or “somewhat uncomfortable” with the idea of allowing Chinese state-owned corporations to take over high-tech Canadian firms and lifting restrictions Chinese investments in Alberta’s oil sands.

The poll is accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

“There is a significant level of concern and discomfort with an enhanced free-trade arrangement with China,” Pollster Nik Nanos told The Globe and Mail. “It is going to take a lot more work for the Liberal government to explain how free trade is good for Canada and how free trade with China will create jobs in Canada. Right now, I think it’s more of a blank slate.”

The Trudeau government has made closer economic ties with China a cornerstone of Liberal foreign policy. Trudeau’s appointment of a former cabinet heavyweight John McCallum as Canada’s ambassador to China was seen as a sign of the importance for Ottawa of developing deeper economic ties with Beijing.

Ottawa has initiated trade talks with Beijing, seeking better access for Canadian companies to the Chinese market.

China on its part has made it clear that any opening of the Chinese market must be accompanied by reciprocal steps by Canada to lift restrictions on state-owned enterprises in investing in Canadian high-tech and resource companies.

Chinese officials are also vehemently opposed to linking any free-trade deal to human rights performance.

However, the Nanos poll shows that 66 per cent of those surveyed believe Canada should link human rights to free-trade negotiations. Only 21 per cent said human rights should not be linked.

The Nanos survey also found that about 80 per cent of Canadians want the federal government to conduct national security tests to determine whether to allow Chinese state-owned companies to take over Canadian firms in such fields as energy, high technology and advanced manufacturing, The Globe and Mail reported.

The poll found 81 per cent of respondents “oppose” or “somewhat oppose” allowing state-owned firms to buy Canadian companies without a review of national security repercussions of the transaction.

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