China has turned the dial up another notch to increase pressure on Canada over the dispute involving the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Last week, China announced it has asked Canada to suspend exports of all meat products to China after Chinese customs inspectors reported found residue from a restricted feed additive in a shipment of Canadian pork products.
China also said its investigation revealed that the official veterinary health certificates accompanying the pork shipment “were counterfeit” and the number of forged certificates “was up to 188.”
The Chinese embassy said the country’s actions are aimed at protecting Chinese customers, but this appears to be just another step in the pattern of pressure China has been exerting on Canada ever since the arrest of Meng in December.
Since then, China has coincidentally found problems with Canadian canola, and, in April, halted pork imports from two Canadian companies over labelling issues.
In addition, the federal government says 13 Canadians have been detained in China since Meng’s arrest.
On Wednesday, China’s Foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that Canada should “take seriously China’s concerns” and immediately release Meng, the chief financial officer of the technology giant.
The timing suggests a definite connection between the Huawei affair and the suspension of meat shipments.
The economic pain of China’s pressure tactics is considerable.
According to the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, China is the biggest customer of Canadian canola, buying close to 40 per cent of the crop.
The ripple effects are widespread. Canada’s canola industry employs close to 250,000 people and provides more than $12 billion in wages.
The suspension of Canadian meat exports to China will also have a dramatic impact.
Figures from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada indicate that 2019 Canadian pork exports to China totalled more than $310 million as of April while Canadian beef and veal exports to that country topped $63 million during the same period.
Both rank third among Canadian meat export markets behind the U.S. and Japan, so China’s slamming the door on Canada will hit the Canadian meat industry hard.
There are many other areas China can squeeze Canadian business in an effort to force Canada to back down over the Huawei dispute, and it’s to be expected that China will have no qualms about doing so.
If it does, Canadians will feel the pain. Says the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance: “China has become the third-largest destination for agricultural products worldwide and is expected to become the world’s largest agricultural importer by 2020. China will be crucial to Canada’s economic future over the next 50 years. China is, and will remain, Canada’s second-largest national two-way trade partner after the U.S.”
The alliance also notes that “China is also Canada’s second-largest export market, absorbing $4.7 billion of Canadian agriculture and agri-food products in 2014. Unlike many of Canada’s trading partners, exports to China have been climbing steadily and did not fall during the global economic crisis.”
So Canada finds itself in a dilemma.
We can either give in to China’s intimidation tactics and abandon plans to extradite Meng to the U.S. to face fraud charges, or we will continue to suffer the consequences, economic and otherwise.
The situation leaves Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a difficult decision in the lead-up to October’s federal election.
This editorial originated in the Lethbridge Herald.