Hello, right hand, this is your left hand speaking

Two stories caught my eye:

  • In the South China Morning Post the headline reads: “China’s Li Keqiang says Beijing is set on path to free-trade deal talks with Canada … [and] … Li Keqiang and Justin Trudeau meet at Asean summit to discuss way ahead for relations;”
  • Meanwhile, on the CBC News website the headline says that “China rebukes Canada and other diplomats for letter on Muslim rights.”

Let us just assume, just for a moment, that, despite some of the provisions of the US~Mexico~Canada Agreement (USMCA) and also because of the USMCA and other US trade polices, a Sino-Canadian free(er) trade agreement is a good thing, in principle. It appears that the Chinese want it, too. If that’s the case then why would “15 foreign ambassadors, including the envoy from Canada,” be accused, by China of having “exceeded their diplomatic roles by issuing a letter expressing concern about the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of members of the country’s Muslim minorities in re-education camps?

The CBC says that a Chinese Foreign Ministry official “told reporters at a daily briefing that it would be “problematic” if the diplomats were attempting to put pressure on local authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where the detentions have taken place … [and he said that] … the letter violated the terms of the Vienna Convention governing diplomatic relations, and that the ambassadors should not “interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”” That looks to me a lot like more virtue signalling, aimed squarely at two audiences in Canada, Muslim Canadian voters and those who worry about everything Chinese.

The South China Morning Post says that “Canada’s International Trade Minister Jim Carr said after the meeting that the Canadian government was interested in having a deal that helped female entrepreneurs, indigenous peoples and promoted other Canadian values, Canadian Press reported … [which is more virtue signalling that the Chinese have already rejected, and] … On Tuesday, Carr said Canada was exploring a variety of sector-specific trade pacts with China that could form the basis of a comprehensive agreement … [and, further] … He said Canada was involved in talks on a number of products in which China was interested, including energy and agricultural goods.

My question is: does the Liberal government right hand know what the left one is doing? Or, perhaps . more likely, is Justin Trudeau intentionally sabotaging free(er) trade talks with China because he’s simply more interested in some Muslim votes in a few ridings in 2019?

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