Unprecedented crisis between China and Canada

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Unprecedented crisis between China and Canada
POOL / AFP / Archives / FRED DUFOUR

The towel is burning between Beijing and Ottawa. Canada sought on Wednesday to determine the origin of fake veterinary certificates that led to China's temporary suspension of Canadian meat imports, a major new development of an unprecedented crisis between the two countries. "There are non-genuine certificates at stake and we take it very seriously," Trade Minister Jim Carr, who suspects a fraud in smuggling meat into China, said Wednesday in Toronto.

"Someone is trying to use the Canadian name to introduce products into the Chinese market," he said. "We do not know where this product comes from, it will take someone to prove that there is a concern with this product and that it comes from Canada." "We must find where this meat comes from and who is the author of this crime," said the Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, in an interview with Radio-Canada. "The system that has been affected is really the system that is specific to exporting meat to China, so other Canadian agricultural products in China or other countries are not affected by this problem at all," he said. she assured.

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The day before, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa provoked Canadian breeders' amazement and concern by asking the Justin Trudeau government to immediately and indefinitely suspend all meat exports to its territory. Reason invoked: the discovery of nearly 190 false export certificates accompanying a cargo of pork from a Canadian company. The cargo was intercepted in mid-June by Chinese customs officials, who claimed to have found traces of ractopamine, a food additive still used in the United States but banned in China as in the European Union. By Tuesday, Ottawa had confirmed the existence of false certificates, a phenomenon "rare" but "not unprecedented" according to Mr. Carr. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has launched an investigation.

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China and Canada are in a serious crisis since the arrest on December 1 in Vancouver of a leader of China's telecom giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the United States. US justice wants to try it for 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 has also blocked imports of the two main Canadian rapeseed producers, claiming to have found "pests" there.

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While several experts interviewed by Canadian media see the new Chinese replica as yet another measure of retaliation, Carr was cautious, saying it was a "technical" incident. For Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, the connection with Meng Wanzhou's arrest is not in doubt. "Of course, the Canadian government can not assure that there is a connection between what is happening with China and the Meng Wanzhou affair," he told CBC. "But I can tell you that is what many analysts say, there is a link."

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On Wednesday, the pork industry did not hide their concern: China alone represents the third largest export market for Canadian pork. Quebec Prime Minister François Legault said the situation was "very disturbing" and suggested that Ottawa should consider financial support for the sector. Ms. Bibeau said this request "premature", saying hope for a quick resolution.

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Coincident to the timing, this new crisis erupted just as Justin Trudeau flew to Japan, where he is scheduled to attend the G20 summit this weekend. Unable to meet himself Chinese President Xi Jinping – who has declined all offers of interview in Ottawa – the Canadian Prime Minister relies on Donald Trump to intercede on his behalf at the G20, and ask for the release of the two Canadians detained "arbitrarily" by China according to him.

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