For Immediate Release
Rising exports to China open door for frank exchange on human rights
(Montreal, Tuesday, 1 December 2009) – As Prime Minister Stephen Harper departs for China, the Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) urges him to look beyond the gloom and doom scenarios painted by Canadian business leaders regarding Canada’s trading relationship with China.
“Prime Minister Harper has no reason to shy away from a frank exchange with Chinese leaders over China’s dismal human rights record because of trade,” said CTC executive director Dermod Travis today. “When it comes to waving trade as a stick, the record shows that China is all bluster and no bite.”
According to theUnited Nations Trade Statistics Database, from 1997 to 2008, Canadian exports to China increased 635 per cent. In real terms, trade rose from$2 billion to nearly $12.7 billion and exports to China, as a percentage of total Canadian exports, tripled to 2.71 per cent. During this period Canadian exports to the United States rose 204 per cent. Statistics Canada reports that exports to China have risen a further seven per cent in the first five months of 2009.
During the 1997 to 2008 period, Canadian imports from China also rose over 920% to $42.2 billion, demonstrating that Chinese companies have little inhibition in selling to countries that their leaders may view unfavourably due to those governments criticism of Chinese policies.
As former Canadian ambassador to the United States Derek Burney noted this year in the Globe and Mail, “We do not have to camouflage our differences (with China). Nor do we have to ‘go along or kowtow to get along’. That is a juvenile concept that has nothing to do with fundamental foreign policy analysis. A more adult approach to the relationship by both countries would allow for honest disagreements on issues such as human rights.”
The CTC believes it’s too easy for Canadian businesses to blame human rights criticism of China for their own indifference in developing new opportunities in unfamiliar emerging markets. It’s a position at least partially shared by the Canada China Business Council (CCBC).
At a Fraser Institute Forum last month, CCBC executive director Sarah Kutulakos noted: “It's so easy to come back and export to the U.S. We really need to convince more Canadian firms to include China in their strategies while welcoming more Chinese investment to Canada."
The CTC noted that even when the Canada China Business Council hosted its third annual business forum in Toronto this past September, they ultimately gave away free tickets to sessions, despite declining the CTC’s paid registration.
The Canada Tibet Committee is an independent non-governmental organisation of Tibetans and non-Tibetans living in Canada, who are concerned about the continuing human rights violations and lack of democratic freedom in Tibet.
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For more information:
Dermod Travis, Executive Director