N.S. premier defends trade mission to China as Canadians remain behind bars

HALIFAX — As two Canadians detained in China approach one year behind bars, Nova Scotia’s premier is defending his latest trade mission to the country as the best way to demonstrate what democracies have to offer.

Stephen McNeil leaves Friday for his eighth trip to China since becoming premier in 2013. The Nova Scotia delegation’s two week-long mission will also stop in South Korea and Japan.

McNeil said Thursday he expects the issue of the Canadian detainees will be raised when he meets with Ma Xingrui, governor of China’s Guangdong province, but he didn’t elaborate.

He said the two countries’ national governments are working toward resolving tensions, and his government will do whatever it can to support those efforts.

“We need to continue to build the relationship so as we move past solving those issues we continue to still build a vibrant economy for both of our countries,” McNeil said.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained on espionage allegations last December, shortly after Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on an extradition request from the United States.

Earlier this week, China lifted a ban on Canadian pork and beef products levelled in the midst of the broader diplomatic feud between the two countries. Meat imports were suspended in June after China said customs inspectors found residue from a restricted feed additive in a batch of Canadian pork products.

A follow-up investigation found forged veterinary health certificates attached to the shipment, which led to an RCMP investigation.

While China observers have hailed the development, it’s believed relations will remain tense until Meng’s case is resolved.

McNeil mentioned the reversal on pork exports and said Nova Scotia would continue to pitch its own exports, the bulk of which come from the seafood sector.

When pressed by reporters on whether the current trip is appropriate, McNeil turned to a well-worn reason for staying engaged with China.

“Isolation and protectionism have never worked.” said McNeil. “I think the more we open up our country and our province to not only young Chinese but global citizens that have different governments than we have, it’s the best way for us to continue to move towards open democracies in those places.”

Speaking for the Opposition, Progressive Conservative lawmaker Allan MacMaster wouldn’t offer an opinion on whether McNeil should travel to China given the diplomatic climate, but did question the premier’s impact during his overseas trips.

“China needs what we have,” said MacMaster. “There’s a tremendous demand for things like protein, things like seafood which we have in abundance. I’m willing to bet that China would be wanting to purchase those things from us, whether he goes to China or not.”

MacMaster also said he found it ironic the premier was going to China over the Remembrance Day weekend, as the country recognizes those who gave their lives to defend democracy.

Increasing trade with China has been a pillar of the current Nova Scotia Liberal government’s overall economic strategy.

Exports have grown from $197-million in 2013 to $792-million in 2018 — with seafood representing $525-million. Figures for 2019 are currently up 23 per cent over last year, and the province believes its final total could hit $1-billion.

China now ranks second to the U.S., which receives about $3.6-billion in exports from Nova Scotia each year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2019.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

China trade mission

Just Posted

An incredible closing ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (File photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games)
2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society hands out $655,000

35 not-for-profit groups across Alberta to get money

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, says COVID ICU patients have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past month. (Photo by The Government of Alberta)
Record number of people in ICU: says AHS president

The head of Alberta Health Services says hospital staff are treating more… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

Alexander Michael Talbot, 29, was found guilty of operating a vehicle while prohibited, flight from police and vehicle theft in Red Deer provincial court recently. (Advocate file photo)
Man charged following police chases in central Alberta last summer is sentenced

Alexander Michael Talbot sentenced to 22 months in prison

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, exile Tibetans use the Olympic Rings as a prop as they hold a street protest against the holding of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in Dharmsala, India. Groups alleging human-rights abuses in China are calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which is sure to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors, and sports federations. A coalition of activists representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others, issued a statement Monday, May 17, 2021 calling for the “full boycott,” eschewing lesser measures like “diplomatic boycotts" and negotiations with the IOC or China. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia, File)
AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Canada's Eric Lamaze riding Fine Lady 5 during the CP International competition at the Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Canada's most decorated show jumper has withdrawn from consideration for the Tokyo Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse questions a foul call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, April 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Nurse says it was the COVID-19 outbreak in March that spiked his team's chances for a post-season run.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris O'Meara
Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Danielle Goyette speaks to reporters during a press conference in Toronto on Friday, November 10, 2017. Goyette has been named director of player development for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and their American Hockey League affiliate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) falls on Nashville Predators center Yakov Trenin (13) during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) watches the puck get past Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) on a shot by Washington Capitals right wing Garnet Hathaway during the first period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday, May 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Toronto Maple Leafs former players Darryl Sittler, centre, Johnny Bower, centre right, are joined by Ted Kennedy's son Mark for a ceremonial puck drop with Montreal Canadiens' Andrei Markov, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf, right, before NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Most Read