Canada welcomes any U.S. help on dispute with China, says rural minister

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A Nova Scotia cabinet minister says the federal government would welcome any help the United States could offer in helping Canada in its ongoing dispute with China.

“I would say that it would be helpful, for sure,” Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan said in an interview.

“It’s different times now in the world than we’ve faced even four years ago. We see challenges all around the world. And we will continue, as a government, to stand up for our Canadian products.”

China has suspended Canadian imports of pork and canola from two Canadian companies in each industry as part of escalating tensions following the December arrest of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant alleging fraud.

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Meng’s arrest infuriated China.

Nine days after her arrest, China imprisoned two Canadians _ ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor _ and accused them of violating China’s national security.

A senior Canadian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, said Canada is working with all allies _ including the U.S. _ to pressure China, which has always been the case.

“It’s not a shift,” said the source.

“For sure, we’re continuing to raise the issue with our American friends.”

The halting of canola and pork imports has also raised the possibility that China could expand what is widely seen as economic retaliation into other areas.

Conservative MP Randy Hoback recently told the House of Commons agriculture committee he’s concerned China might decide to single out Canadian maple syrup or seafood.

Jordan said her Nova Scotia constituency is the largest lobster producing riding in the country, and not a day goes by without her talking to a fisher.

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In 2017, Canada exported 10-million kilograms of live lobster to China.

Canada’s efforts to diversify its markets for seafood continue apace with the ratification of free trade deals with the European Union and the 10 Pacific Rim countries in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, she said.

“Yes, China accounts for a significant portion of our lobster sales _ our seafood, it’s not just lobsters. But I think with the ability for us to open up Europe, our ability to open up other Asian markets, there is that potential to make sure that those challenges are mitigated.”

Jordan stressed there has been “absolutely no indication” of any movement by China to take trade action against Canadian seafood.

While she offered few details of what contingency plans the government may have if the seafood sectors is hit by China, Jordan suggested the government would come to their aid if necessary.

“We’ve worked with the canola farmers specifically on a package for them. I’m sure that when the time comes, if there’s a need, we will be there for our fishers as well.”

Last week, the government came to the aid of canola farmers by changing a special agricultural program that will raise loan limits to $1 million from $400,000. The interest-free portion of that program is also rising to $500,000 from $100,000.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a statement that the government wants to ensure producers “have the support they need” and officials are “dealing with issues that arise on a case-by-case basis.”