Champagne quiet on what U.S. thinks of idea to hold off on trade deal with China

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is refusing to say how Washington responded to Canada’s request that it hold off on signing a trade deal with China until Canadian prisoners are released.

In an interview with The Canadian Press Friday, Champagne didn’t want to discuss private talks between his government and the Americans regarding the detention of businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat, Michael Kovrig.

“A lot things are happening,” he said. “But you understand that in the interests of the two Michaels, it wouldn’t be in their interests for me to go into all the details about what we are trying to do.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a French-language TV network Thursday he had asked the United States not to sign any final trade agreement with China until the Canadians have been released.

It has been more than a year since Beijing detained Spavor and Kovrig in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei. She was arrested last December at the request of U.S. authorities who want her on fraud charges. Just days later, Spavor and Kovrig were detained.

When asked how U.S. officials responded to Trudeau’s request, Champagne said the Canadian government’s “solemn obligation” is to use all the means available to demand the immediate release of Kovrig and Spavor. “And that’s what the prime minister did yesterday.”

The Globe and Mail reported Friday that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang dismissed Trudeau’s attempt to sway the Americans, describing the prime minister’s request as “doomed to fail” and “totally in vain.”

Geng said the trade deal between China and the United States is beneficial to both sides and President Donald Trump will undoubtedly prioritize the economic interests of his country.

“The conclusion of the phase one deal is in the interest of both the U.S. and China, as comports with the aspirations of the rest of the world,” he said.

Champagne said securing the release of Kovrig and Spavor is his department’s top priority.

“There isn’t another foreign affairs file on which we are spending more time, more energy, more means, than the release of the two Michaels,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2019.

Catherine Levesque, The Canadian Press

U.S. China Trade Deal

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Many Central Albertans said their health during pandemic affected by putting off doctor visits

In Central Zone, 28 % said their health greatly affected by delaying seeking medical help

Rocky Mountain House pilot’s plane hit power lines before crash

Ken Fowler and Hannelie Eder died in Sept. 26 crash near Thorsby

Red Deer Public School officials hope 8 per cent student absentee rate holds steady

September’s absentee rate was only a little worse than last year

Opinion: Cities’ push for new taxes is divorced from reality

‘Councillors want Kenney to make it easier for them to put their grubby paws on our paycheques’

Hinshaw encourages Albertans to celebrate Halloween safely

The holiday is safer than most indoor gatherings, she said

North American stock markets rise to start the fourth quarter with boost for tech

North American stock markets rise to start the fourth quarter with boost for tech

Airline unions call on Ottawa for $7 billion in loans for ailing industry

Airline unions call on Ottawa for $7 billion in loans for ailing industry

Oil and gas rival Paramount Resources says it may make a takeover bid for NuVista

Oil and gas rival Paramount Resources says it may make a takeover bid for NuVista

Red Deer RCMP bust chop shop

A travel trailer and 2019 Jeep Compass were recovered at the scene

26 Albertans charged in child pornography probe

Suspects range in age from 16 to 61 years old

Most Read