Once again Canada is proving its credentials as a loyal and effective ally.
This time, against enormous pressure – including the taking in effect of Canadian hostages in China – it is adhering to its consular undertakings with the U.S.
The row is over the detention of Meng Wanzhou, CFO and daughter of China’s huge electronic company founder, Huawei Technologies Co., when she was held after arriving at Vancouver airport in December. Washington asked for her deportation to the U.S.
The U.S. which sees Huawei as an organ of the Chinese Communist Party and government – as are most Chinese companies – violated U.S. and UN sanctions against Iran for Tehran’s subversive activities throughout the world.
U.S. officials have been increasingly wary of Huawei operating as an arm of Chinese intelligence through its vast electronics manufacturing and sales around the world. And the U.S. government has moved in to bloc its relations with U.S. companies with security concerns
The Canadians have, in fact, been much more lenient than the U.S. in viewing the nature of what are ostensibly Chinese commercial operations in their country.
Since 2003, China has been Canada’s second largest trading partner, passing Britain and Japan. China now accounts for about 6 percent of Canada’s total world trade (imports and exports combined). Between 1998 and 2007, imports from China grew by almost 400 percent.
Negotiations for a highly anticipated trade treaty have been halted between the two countries. And as the United States requests Meng’s extradition to the U.S. in the coming weeks, China is threatening retaliation.
Huawei already has sued the Canadian government, police and border officials claiming their leading executive’s legal rights were violated when she was detained at Vancouver International Airport in December following an extradition arrest request from the U.S.
Canada, as a medium-size economy, is in an extremely difficult position. With limited leverage in international trade to diversify, particularly trying to get away from its overwhelming dependence on the United States, rapid expansion of trade with China was looked on as a bonanza. Ottawa did recently finally initial a trade compact with the European Union. It was set to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership [which, of course the Trump Administration has now withdrawn from] that would open up new markets, especially with Japan.
But China had been viewed as one of the biggest prizes by Trudeau’s trade negotiators. That’s despite the obvious problems. The risks particularly on the security side, in addition to state-to-state espionage but also in terms of intellectual property theft are considerable.
The Five Eyes security intelligence-sharing network of the English-speaking democracies has twice cautioned Ottawa against Huawei’s growing presence in Canada, according to the Globe and Mail. As in the U.S. where similar concerns have now been publicized in recent U.S. Senate hearings.
Beijing, in recent years, has invested millions of dollars into North American universities, with critics warning that the numerous patents they have gained through research partnerships could have a negative impact on infrastructure security as the company seeks to dominate the nascent field of 5G telecommunications technology.
Beijing has accused two Canadian men of working together to steal state secrets as an obvious retaliation for Meng’s arrest. In a short statement posted online, the ruling Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission accused Canadian citizen Michael Kovrig of stealing state secrets passed on to him from another detained Canadian, Michael Spavor. While China has invoked national security to justify detaining the Canadian men, Monday’s statement marks the first time Chinese authorities have gone into more detail.
A Canadian government statement reacted with a statement which said in part: “The safety and security of Canadians is always of first order for this government. That’s why we’ve been engaging and standing up for the two Canadians who have been arbitrarily detained by China from the very beginning.”
Beijing’s propagandists immediately cited the ongoing SNC-Lavalin controversy which has threatened to topple the Trudeau government as leverage in Meng’s case saying it put into question judicial independence in Canada. Founded in 1911, SNC-Lavalin is a global integrated professional services and project management company and a major player in the ownership of infrastructure. Charging the Trudeau government has used its influence in behalf of the company, Canada’s President of the Treasury Board resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet March 4, the second minister to leave in the wake of a political scandal that has roiled Trudeau’s tenure just months before an October election. Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould had testified last week that government officials inappropriately pressured her to help construction firm SNC-Lavalin avoid a corruption trial.