Harper's China trip to further strengthen bilateral ties, says senior Canadian official

08:49, December 01, 2009      

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Beijing later this week will be a "positive trip" to further strengthen bilateral relationship, a senior government official said in Ottawa Monday.

Harper will embark on a trip Wednesday that will lead him to Beijing, Shanghai and Hongkong, his first China visit since he came to office in 2006.

During Harper's talks with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other Chinese government officials, the two sides will cover a wide range of bilateral and international issues including trade, investment, energy and environment, the issue of the Korea Peninsula, anti-protectionism and the global recession, among others, Dimitri Soudas, Harper's chief spokesman, said at a briefing Monday.

Although Canada and China may not agree on some issues, the two countries do have a "strong, deep, diverse and real mutual-beneficial" relationship and Harper's trip is expected to further build these relations and strengthen friendship, he said.

The two sides have been strengthening cooperation on energy, health, environment and anti-protectionism recently, with frequent ministerial visits during the past year, Soudas said.

He said Canada would like to have "frank, respectful and positive" talks with China, noting China's rising economic power and emerging importance on the international stage has made Canada more obliged to strengthen bilateral ties.

Harper's China trip comes a time as the two countries celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations next year. China is now Canada's second largest merchandise trading partner and is expected to become Canada's second largest merchandise export market this year, the spokesman said.

People-to-people links are at a historic level too. More than 1. 3 million Canadian citizens are Chinese origin, making Chinese Canada's third largest language after English and French. Approximately 42,000 students from China are studying in Canada's universities and colleges.

Harper will be in China on Dec. 2-6. He is going to South Korea on Dec. 7.

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