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Ottawa mayor looking for expanded links with China

Updated: Sep 23,2016 10:18 AM     China Daily

Ottawa’s mayor welcomed the visit of Premier Li Keqiang, saying it was a good opportunity to exchange ideas and strengthen ties between Canada and China.

“I think anytime there are these kinds of exchanges, they’re positive,” said Jim Watson, who has been mayor of the Canadian capital since 2010. “The more we can have dialogue, talking about challenges and some of the frustrations of the relationship, some of the positive things about the relationship, it’s a good thing.”

Ottawa has had a sister-city relationship with Beijing since 1999. The link was extended in 2013 when Watson signed the Exchange and Cooperation Agreement with Beijing to further strengthen ties in economic development, trade, investment, education and tourism.

Canada’s fourth-largest city has about 16,000 Chinese residents among its population of 884,000.

“We look forward to Beijing and China participating in our 2017 celebration as Canada celebrates its 150th birthday next year in Ottawa,” he said. “We’ve invited the mayor of Beijing to come to Ottawa in 2017. We hope to be able to finalize that arrangement because we think it’s important to strengthen the ties between our two cities.”

Like other Canadian cities, Ottawa has attracted Chinese investors. Watson led a trade delegation to China at the end of 2015, and five major agreements were signed with Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun.

The city has been promoting itself as a technology and innovation hub. Chinese investors have shown interest in companies involved in the wireless and other communications industries, and medical devices, according to Invest Ottawa, the city’s economic development program.

Outreach efforts have resulted in 120 local high-tech companies forming bilateral trade, investment and partnership ties with Chinese companies.

“I think the relations are very positive. The prime minister’s visit to China was a successful visit-(with) a lot of deals signed that will benefit both countries-and here in Ottawa, we have a very strong relationship with the Beijing municipality,” Watson said.

He also noted that Canada’s relationship with China is long-running: former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, father of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, established diplomatic ties with China in 1970.

“As you know, our country, through (former) Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, initiated diplomatic relations even before the Americans and a number of other countries,” Watson said. “So we have ties, whether it’s Dr Norman Bethune, or our sister city agreement, or the Trudeau relationship, that’s a positive thing.”

Bethune was a Canadian physician who served as a doctor for the Chinese Communist guerrilla army. He became famous for unselfish efforts to improve the health of villagers. Bethune died in China in 1939.