OTTAWA — Canadian diplomats will be granted access “shortly” to the second Canadian detained in China, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday, as he predicted consequences for Canada’s economy from the U.S.-China trade war.
“We are a country that is deeply supported and engaged in global trade,” Trudeau said. ”And when the two largest economies in the world are trying to disrupt global trade, there’s going to be consequences for Canada.”
Trudeau addressed the fate of the entrepreneur Michael Spavor, one of two Canadians arrested in China earlier this week, during a wide-ranging interview with The Canadian Press.
Spavor and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were taken into custody this week in Beijing, days after the RCMP arrested a top Chinese business leader transiting through Vancouver at the behest of the United States. The U.S. wants Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, to be extradited to the U.S. to face fraud charges.
Earlier Friday, John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met for the first time with Kovrig, who is on a leave of absence from Global Affairs Canada. He served as a diplomat in China until 2016 and has been working for the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental agency. China says he’s been harming its national security.
“We seek consular access, which we’ve gotten already in one of the cases, and are going to have in the second case shortly,” Trudeau said Friday. “We’re hopeful that it’ll happen soon.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also urged China on Friday to end the “unlawful detention” of the two Canadians.
“We ask all nations of the world to treat other citizens properly and the detention of these two Canadian citizens in China ought to end,” Pompeo said in Washington, alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Pompeo moved to temper an earlier statement by U.S. Donald Trump this week, who mused he might intervene in the Meng case if it helped him get a trade deal with China. Pompeo said the extradition request for Meng isn’t being used as political leverage in the trade talks with China.
During the interview, Trudeau made it clear that the U.S.-China trade war would have ramifications not only for Canada’s economy, but the world’s.
But the only way for Canada to see its way through the turbulence is to adhere strictly to the rule of law, and the international institutions that are under threat, Trudeau said.
“It’s not about being nice guys, or good guys. It’s about understanding that the rules that we have established as a global community have kept us in an unparalleled era of peace, stability, prosperity, lifting millions upon millions of people around the world out of poverty,” said Trudeau.
But sometimes, he said, the rules can be improved. That explains Canada’s leadership in trying to reform the World Trade Organization — one of the many global institutions that has been heavily maligned by the Trump administration.