Muslim Wire

PM to visit China, India: Asian meetings follow criticism that Harper was neglecting trade

Posted in Politics, Society by muslimwire on October 30, 2009

OTTAWA–Stephen Harper has scheduled his first visits to China and India since becoming prime minister.

Harper announced Wednesday he will make official trips to the countries over the next two months after years of criticism that he has neglected two massive markets for Canadian trade and products.

The government has been setting the stage for Harper’s eventual visit to the countries with a flurry of ministerial trips, trade deals and joint initiatives on various issues.

In a speech earlier this fall, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff accused the Prime Minister of ignoring China and India and hurting Canadian exporters and the national economy in the process. The Liberal leader had planned to head to China in September and even boasted about it in a major foreign policy speech, but abruptly cancelled the trip the next day, fearing an imminent federal election.

Harper is to visit India from Nov. 16 to 18, after attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Singapore.

He visits China from Dec. 2 to 6.

Relations between Ottawa and Beijing have been strained under Harper’s tenure. In 2006, ahead of an APEC summit in Vietnam, the Prime Minister vowed to reporters that he would make human rights the central thrust of a planned meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, and that he would not sell out Canadian values to “the almighty dollar.”

Harper was speaking about the case of Huseyin Celil, a Chinese-Canadian citizen from the Muslim minority Uighur population in northwestern China.

Celil was arrested in Uzbekistan and extradited to China, where he was sentenced to death for terrorism. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.

Chris MacLeod, Celil’s Hamilton lawyer, said the attention paid to the case has waned since the death sentence was changed. But he said he expects Harper, while in Beijing, to make a strong appeal for Celil’s release and return to Canada, given how vigorously he has spoken on Celil’s behalf in the past.

The trick will be balancing the imperatives of promoting Canadian trade and business and speaking out for human rights. On this trip, the initial signs are that trade will top the agenda.

“Our two countries enjoy a growing partnership, sharing significant interests in trade and investment, the environment and regional security,” Harper said in a statement. “Canada is committed to a strong relationship with China that reflects our mutual respect and the need for practical cooperation.”–pm-to-visit-china-india

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