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It Won't End At Canola: Canada Shouldn't Underestimate China's Trade Aggression

The emerging crisis on canola may just be the start of an aggressive trade penalty scheme.

While Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's extradition case may take months, even years, to settle, it took less than a month for China to strike a multibillion-dollar blow to Canadian canola exports. On Wednesday, China suspended the licence of yet another major Canadian canola exporting company — Regina, Ont.-based Viterra — approximately one month after revoking that of a first.

China surely made a calculated move by banning Canadian canola products. The sanction will affect around $2.7 billion worth of canola export from Canada, and China is one of the product's main importers.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Canada should "correct the mistakes it made earlier" in the brewing trade spat and justified its stance by claiming that Canadian canola products pose a safety risk. It remains uncertain what "mistake" the Chinese officials were referring to — the alleged biological hazards found in Canadian canola or the arrest of Wanzhou, who was indicted by the United States Department of Justice on more than 20 criminal charges.

'Willing to utilize all of its resources to coerce Canada'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that the relationship between Canada and China has its "challenges," but his proposed solution to the ongoing diplomatic crisis seems to be heading in the wrong direction. Earlier in Winnipeg, Trudeau told media that he is considering sending a delegation to Beijing to resolve the issue.

Canola seed from a farm near Cremona, Alta.
Canola seed from a farm near Cremona, Alta.

It is not the first time that China utilized trade to pressure foreign countries on various conflicts. In 2010, China called off a proposed bilateral trade deal with Norway and started to restrict imports of Norwegian salmon after the Nobel Prize committee issued the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to prominent Chinese political prisoner, Liu Xiaobo, who later died of cancer while detained in 2017.

Britain and other countries faced China's retaliatory measures for meeting with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader-in-exile. University of Calgary was similarly targeted after the Dalai Lama spoke at the university on 2010, when the Chinese Ministry of Education to remove U of C as an accredited Canadian university in China. In the ongoing trade war with the United States, China put on tariffs on American agricultural products, including soybeans, to pressure voters to dismiss Donald Trump.

Canadians need to realize the danger.

It seems China is clearly willing to utilize all of its resources to coerce Canada into making decisions in favour of the regime's benefit. Chinese authorities took two Canadian citizens as hostages over the Huawei dispute. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are still detained by China. They were not allowed legal counsel, and were only granted consular services once a month.

To this day, Ralph Goodale and the Ministry of Public Safety have yet to make a final decision on banning Huawei's involvement in Canada's 5G network. We can expect Xi Jinping and the Chinese communist regime to continue to increase pressure on Canadian officials.

'Canadians need to realize the danger'

The emerging crisis on canola may just be the start of an aggressive trade penalty scheme. In addition, Canada also exports wood, paper and mineral products to China. If the Chinese were determined to put more restrictions on Canadian exports, more industrial workers and businesses will suffer.

Bottles of Canadian-manufactured canola oil, centre, seen on a shelf of a grocery store in Beijing.
AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File
Bottles of Canadian-manufactured canola oil, centre, seen on a shelf of a grocery store in Beijing.

Canadians need to realize the danger that emerges from an aggressive China: this is no longer a country facing mass poverty and poor infrastructure. Through international trade, favourable economic terms and comprehensive government interference, China has become a global power with massive resources over the past 40 years of economic reform.

There are many options that Canada has yet to utilize to defend against China's ongoing aggression. Trudeau seems to prefer a softer approach to the Chinese government, ostensibly to avoid further retaliatory measures. But while Trudeau wants to engage in dialogue and communication, the Chinese have shown little interest in talking — they want to see Meng Wanzhou released and Huawei to be included in Canada's 5G network. Trudeau is not able to offer either of these things.

Canada should start considering a defensive strategy. We have a dollar-to-dollar tariff on American steel; we should consider a similar dollar-to-dollar tariff on Chinese goods in Canada.

It is time for Canadians to realize the scope and the severity of the diplomatic disputes between Canada and China. It is more serious than canola products and two detained Canadians. It is the time for Canada to re-evaluate its China policy to handle future crises from the increasingly aggressive regime. We need to consider proactive plans, and we should be prepared for facing larger conflicts.

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