The head of one of Canada’s biggest business lobby groups says he has conveyed to Canada’s ambassador in China that the diplomatic rift between Beijing and Ottawa shouldn’t affect business ties between the two countries.
Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, told The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson that he recently met with ambassador John McCallum and that the pair discussed various matters related to Canada’s relationship with China.
Hyder said the conversation touched on how to shield Canadian-Chinese business relationships from the diplomatic spat sparked by Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the U.S.
“We’re trying to ensure during this period that business communities on both sides are able to continue to some extent with a business-as-usual model, and we want to make sure that our business community is able to continue to travel and their business community is able to continue travel,” Hyder said.
“A lot of business happens with China so you can’t just stop and start every time there’s a diplomatic rift. You clearly have to find a way to keep battling through it.”
Hyder said he’s hopeful because it’s not in either country’s interest to allow business dealings to be tainted by the ongoing diplomatic disagreements.
“That would harm Canadians, but it would also harm Chinese,” he said.
“Many of the things that businesses do on both sides of the trade equation are about helping that middle class that every political party in the world wants to try and find a way to help,” he added.
“Keeping business going is the way to do that.”
While the Canadian government says it’s continuing to work towards securing the release of detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Hyder said he doesn’t think Canadian businesspeople in China need to be fearful of being unlawfully detained or harassed by local authorities.
“The Chinese approach is to make a point, and I think even their ambassador here has suggested that they’ve made their point,” said Hyder.
“This is not something that’s going to be exacerbated… it’s not in their interest to do that.”
Canada’s spat with China began in December, just a few months after its feud with another major Asian economy, Saudi Arabia, which was sparked by the Trudeau government’s criticism of Saudi Arabia’s detention of human rights activists.
The Canadian-Saudi relationship was dealt another challenge this past weekend after Canada granted asylum to Saudi teenage runaway Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun, who fled Saudi Arabia and alleged that her father, a municipal governor, and other relatives abused her.
Hyder said that an increasingly complex global environment behooves Canada and other countries to exercise caution in relation to other countries’ affairs.
“I think one would have to be very careful — irrespective of whether you’re Canadian or anybody else — to insert yourself too often from a morally superior point-of-view because you may get called out on that in your own actions and your own behaviours so navigating that is very, very tricky,” he said.
“I think the government is finding that out and is now going to have to deal with some of these issues in the long run.”