The visit of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to China in November was reconfirmed after speculation that it might be canceled after recent violence in Canada.
A senior Chinese diplomat confirmed that Harper will be in Beijing to attend the November APEC leaders meeting.
The confirmation followed comments from Harper’s office this week suggesting that he had canceled plans to attend the APEC meeting in the wake of terror attacks in Canada that claimed the lives of two soldiers.
There was even speculation that Harper would not attend the APEC event after relations with China hit a rocky patch earlier this year.
China’s Ambassador to Canada Luo Zhaohui said at a reception at his residence on Wednesday that Harper will pay an official visit and attend the annual gathering of the 21 APEC member economies.
China places priority on the China-Canada relationship and firmly believes that Harper’s visit will bring “positive results”, Luo said, according to a China News Service report on Wednesday.
Harper’s office had initially said he would be in Ottawa for Canada’s Nov 11 Remembrance Day, which honors the country’s war dead. The date coincides with the APEC meeting.
The November visit will be Harper’s third to China as prime minister. Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Wednesday that Beijing has everything in place to successfully host the APEC meeting.
Wang highlighted that Canada’s view of the importance of the APEC meeting was “very strong and clear and has not changed”.
“The Canadian government, especially the prime minister, has placed great emphasis on the event and has made preparations to attend the meeting,” Wang said.
Wang also noted this sense of shock and grief after the terror attacks in Canada and said both countries were working on the details of Harper’s schedule.
“There are warnings that key Canadian priorities will fall by the wayside if Mr. Harper can’t make the trip,” Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper commented on Tuesday.
Wang Fan, vice-president of China Foreign Affairs University, said the Canadian prime minister “has indeed been facing huge pressure” after the rare shooting in his country.
US President Barack Obama missed the APEC summit last year in Indonesia because of a US government shutdown.
“Even if Harper fails to attend the APEC summit, that would not do a great deal of harm to bilateral relationship,” Wang said.
China, Canada’s second-largest trade partner and second-largest export market, had $55 billion in bilateral trade with Canada last year.
The two countries’ cooperative agenda has accelerated in the past few months despite isolated setbacks.
In September, Canada ratified a foreign investment protection agreement with China. Reuters said it was made “after a two-year delay in a move that could help ease tensions with China”.
Harper may “bring good news” before or during his trip to China regarding a possible decision to establish an offshore transaction center in Canada using China’s currency, RMB, Luo Zhaohui, the Chinese ambassador, speculated in late September.
The Globe and Mail quoted business leaders as saying that without the prime minister’s presence, “Canada is unlikely to immediately secure a much-wanted deal to trade Chinese currency at home”.