Canada to face consequences when China-US ties improve in the future
Canadian exporters needn’t over-interpret move
Published: Jun 22, 2020 08:33 PM

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou.Photo:VCG

Tighter rules and stepped-up scrutiny of food imports are steps China is taking to curb a resurgence of COVID-19, rather than an excuse to target any specific country for a political reason as some Canadian exporters have claimed, Chinese experts said, urging exporters to respect the nation's rules if they want to make profits in China.

These exporters' claims also reflect strains in the China-Canada relationship due to Canada's role in the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, which ought to be resolved quickly to avoid further damaging bilateral trade ties, experts said.

According to CBC News, Canadian lobster exporters to China have run into a "border roadblock," as Chinese importers have started demanding a signed declaration that Canadian live and processed lobster is free of COVID-19.

The report, citing a local lobster trader, described the new declaration as "a bold thing that Canadian exporters should push back." The trader in the report declined to sign the declaration, as it makes "Canadian companies liable in the Chinese court system if there is a problem."

A manager with a major seafood import company in China told the Global Times on Monday that the requirement came from the Chinese customs.

"The required declaration applies to all seafood imports from all countries, with no differentiations," the manager, who do not want to be named, said.

The new procedures come after an outbreak of coronavirus infections linked to a Beijing whole food market last week. China is stepping up inspections of fresh and frozen meat and seafood, imported products in particular, after the new outbreak.

The rule also aims to emphasize the import traceability of all quarantine inspection products, which could encourage the public to have confidence in seafood consumption, the manager said. 

"For all products placed on our online stores, we will attach the foreign inspection and quarantine certificate," said the manager.

A major Chinese salmon importer told the Global Times on Monday that all of its suppliers are cooperative and willing to sign the declaration as they "want to do business with China."

The company said, compared with Canada, it prefers to do business with countries like Chile, which has a mature, industrialized industry chain and is also cooperative with and respectful of Chinese regulations.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it is communicating with China's customs to "provide the requested assurances with respect to Canadian exports," according to the CBC News report.

It's Canada's choice to export to China, and Canada needs to abide by Chinese regulations, which may be adjusted when necessary in accordance with the Covid-19 situation, Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Monday.

"Since the Canadian exporters are so confident about their management, why don't they have the courage to sign the declaration", Bai asked, noting that Canada ought to understand that "China has such a regulation only because there is a risk of the virus spreading." 

Moreover, tougher inspection in China may not be the major reason for a declining share of Canadian lobsters. According to the Canadian Lobster Commission, the country exported 4,323 tons of lobsters to China in January; while in March, the amount fell to 473 tons.

Last month, a Canadian court defied public expectations and ruled to keep Meng in custody, a move which shows that Canada has surrendered its self-proclaimed judicial and diplomatic independence to the US and seriously battered the China-Canada ties.

Experts warned that the Canadian side should be fully aware that its attitude in Meng's case is the only roadblock between the two countries. If the Canadian side does not remove it, a disruption in the lobster trade might be just the tip of the iceberg in bilateral trade, as fraught ties have already undermined confidence in business communities on both sides.

The US and Canada abused their bilateral extradition treaty and arbitrarily took compulsory measures against a Chinese citizen without cause, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said earlier.

"The Canadian side should immediately correct its mistake, release Meng and ensure her safe return to China at an early date, so as to avoid any continuous harm to China-Canada relations," said Zhao.

"Canada could have been a beneficiary of the China-US trade war, given its complementary economic structure, but it chose to blindly follow the steps of the Trump administration. Canada will definitely face a harsh consequence from Beijing when China-US ties improve in the future," Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at Ministry of Commerce's Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times.