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Premier Li, Trudeau inaugurate ‘new annual dialogue’

Zhao Huanxin and Hu Yongqi
Updated: Sep 23,2016 10:35 AM     China Daily

Premier Li Keqiang and his wife, Cheng Hong, talk with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, at Trudeau’s country residence in Ottawa, Canada, on Sept 21. [Photo/Xinhua]

Premier Li Keqiang and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met for what Premier Li called an inaugural annual dialogue on Sept 22 in Ottawa, just three weeks after Trudeau visited China.

Premier Li was welcomed by Trudeau with military honors on Sept 22 at the Drill Hall at Cartier Square, a military training facility in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

He then went to Parliament Hill, where he was welcomed by George Furey, speaker of the Senate, and Geoff Regan, speaker of the House of Commons.

After a tete-a-tete with Trudeau, the two premiers had an expanded meeting. They were also to witness the signing of a series of bilateral cooperation documents.

Details of their talks and the agreements were not available by press time.

Premier Li and his wife, Cheng Hong, arrived in Ottawa on Sept 21, after an hour-and-a-half flight from New York, where Premier Li had attended the 71st United Nations General Assembly meetings.

Two hours after their arrival, the couple attended a dinner party hosted by Trudeau and his wife at Harrington Lake, the prime minister’s country residence.

Trudeau posted a picture of their lakeside chat on his Twitter and WeChat accounts. The visit marked the first in 13 years by a Chinese premier to “the beautiful land of maples”.

Upon his arrival on Sept 21, Premier Li said he believed China-Canada relations have a deep foundation and huge potential and show great development opportunity.

“Our economies, which are at different stages of development, are highly complementary, making us natural partners in cooperation,” Premier Li said.

The Premier said China is willing to open its markets wider and further increase imports of high-quality agricultural and high-tech products from Canada.

“My visit to Canada ... is to inaugurate the new annual dialogue between our heads of government and further promote mutual understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries,” Premier Li said in the article published in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail on Sept 21.

“We hope the feasibility study on a China-Canada free trade area can be launched expeditiously to lay the institutional foundation for liberalized trade between the two countries,” Premier Li said in the article.

China is now Canada’s second-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade volume of $67.2 billion in 2015, a year-on-year increase of 10.1 percent, according to Canadian statistics.

A China-Canada free trade deal would generate $7.8 billion in additional economic activity within 15 years, supporting 25,000 new Canadian jobs, according to a report released in January by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Canada-China Business Council.

While Trudeau visited two major Chinese cities and attended a summit in a third, Premier Li is scheduled to visit Ottawa as well as Montreal, where he will attend a business forum.

Premier Li’s visit is also part of the efforts to restart bilateral relations, including Trudeau’s successful visit to Beijing last month, after years of ups and downs in their ties, said Ruan Zongze, executive vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies.

The two meetings within a month by the two leaders showcase the driving force to link their strategies and bring ties to a new high, Ruan said. Bilateral ties have entered a period of “active interaction” after years of insipidness, he added.

Geng Tan, a member of Canada’s Parliament, said Premier Li’s visit is good not just for Canadians, but also for Chinese people, and will lead to more agreements and deals between the two countries.