Ottawa is investigating whether the fake veterinary certificates relied on by China to suspend imports of Canadian meat come from a shipment of Canadian pork, the trade minister said on Wednesday.
While the two countries are going through an unprecedented diplomatic crisis, China on Tuesday urged Canada to immediately suspend all meat exports to its territory following the discovery of nearly 190 fake export certificates of Canadian pork.
"We do not know where this product comes from," Jim Carr told reporters in Toronto. "Someone will have to prove that there is a concern with this product and that it comes from Canada. Some questions remain unanswered.
"There are non-genuine certificates at play and we take it very seriously," Carr said. "An investigation has been launched".
"Someone is trying to use a Canadian brand to bring products to the Chinese market," he added. "We are trying to find out why it happened, who benefits, and we work with our partners to find the answer as soon as possible."
The minister said Beijing's decision did not represent a new escalation of tensions between the two countries.
"We see this as a technical issue, and the Chinese see it as a technical issue," he said. "Nobody is trying to raise tensions."
China and Canada are in a serious crisis since the arrest on December 1 in Vancouver of Chinese telecom giant Huawei leader Meng Wanzhou, accused by the United States of circumventing US sanctions against Iran.
Since the arrest, Chinese authorities have arrested two Canadians suspected of espionage and sentenced two others to death for drug trafficking. Beijing asserts that these measures are unrelated to the Huawei case.
China also blocked imports of the two main Canadian rapeseed producers, claiming that they found "pests" there.
In mid-June, the Chinese customs authorities decided to suspend imports of pork from a Canadian company, citing the discovery of ractopamine, a food additive banned in China, in a shipment from Canada.
Following this discovery, an investigation by the Canadian authorities showed that up to 188 export certificates had been falsified, according to the Chinese Embassy.