Some B.C. businesses fear declining trade with China after Xi’s rebuke of

Some B.C. business owners say they are concerned about rising tensions between Canada and China, after Chinese President Xi Jinping confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the recent G20 summit in Indonesia.

China is B.C.’s second-largest trade partner.

At the summit, the Prime Minister’s Office told reporters that Trudeau raised serious concerns with Xi about Chinese “interference” in Canada, but offered no specifics. 

In a rare unplanned exchange caught by cameras, Xi later confronted Trudeau about the fact that details had been shared with the media.

“Everything we discuss has been leaked to the paper; that’s not appropriate,” Xi said through an interpreter.

Chris Pereira, a business owner who helps Canadian brands enter China and vice versa, says he is concerned the public rebuke could “cause additional headaches and additional waves in the relationship, including in the business world.”

Lately, interest in China has slowed, says Pereira, president of North American Ecosystem Institute and former senior director of public affairs at Huawei Canada.

While Chinese companies are still clamouring for Canadian dollars, the reception here can be chilly.

“For many companies that have nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with the Chinese government, just having the brand of China placed onto them can have an unfair effect on their operations,” said Pereira.

For some B.C. companies, politics have yet to get in the way. 

“We’re seeing about double-digit growth this year over last year for Canadian brands that they operate,” said Peter McMath, chief revenue officer with Vancouver’s WPIC Marketing + Technologies, adding that Canadian brands such as Lululemon and Tim Hortons have thriving businesses in China.

A recent report from the University of Alberta found Canadian exports to China fell more than 14 per cent compared to the same time last year.

B.C. exports the most to China out of any other province — more than $717 million in September alone this year.

Canada’s long-awaited strategy for dealing with China and the broader Indo-Pacific region is set to be released Sunday. 

David Fung, vice-chair of Canada China Business Council, says Canada may not like their human rights record, but turning away China could threaten Canada’s competitive edge.
“We can chew gum and walk at the same time,” Fung said.

“We can express our difference with China without having to jeopardize our trade with China.”

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