Shi Guangsheng, minister of foreign trade and economic co-operation, has announced that China is ready to work closer with Canada to open new areas for co-operation and increase trade leading to the 21st century.
Canadian investments in China have grown remarkably since the early 1980s when a number of Canadian companies sought opportunities here.
By the end of 1998, China had approved a total of 3,982 Canada-funded projects, with a contractual investment volume of US$6.4 billion. Actual investments reached nearly US$1.8 billion.
The projects are scattered in 20 provinces and cover a wide range of sectors including oil, electronics, telecommunications, chemicals, light industry, foodstuffs, textiles, agriculture, aquaculture, real estate and tourism services.
Over the past decade, there has also been strong co-operation in terms of government loans and international aid. That has mainly focused on agriculture, forestry, energy, communications, telecommunications, hydropower, petrochemicals, light industry, construction materials, urban construction, paper pulp and paper-making, environmental protection, personnel training and the elimination of poverty.
Shi stressed that preferential loans and aid provided by the Canadian Government have greatly improved the popularity and competitiveness of Canadian enterprises in the Chinese market. They have also helped contribute to the increase of Canadian technology and equipment exports to China, bringing considerable economic and social benefits.
According to Shi, Premier Zhu Rongji's visit to Canada, which follows his current tour of the United States, will push forward economic co-operation and trade relations as well as boost ties in a wide range of other areas.
In fact, non-governmental trade between China and Canada started as early as the 1950s, and formal trade relations began in 1961 when the two sides signed an agreement on wheat. Diplomatic relations were established in 1970 followed by an official trade agreement in 1973.
As a result of frequent reciprocal visits by government leaders in recent years, entrepreneurs from both countries have been encouraged to expand their co-operation and trade.
Figures provided by the General Administration of Customs indicate that trade volume between China and Canada has risen annually: the bilateral trade volume hit US$4.37 billion in 1998, 29 times 1970's figure and trade in 1998 grew 11.6 per cent from 1997.
While China's exports to Canada reached US$2.13 billion last year, up 11.7 per cent, imports from Canada were US$2.24 billion, up 11.5 per cent. Canada is now China's 10th largest trade partner.
China's main export goods to Canada include machinery and electronic products, clothing and textiles, footwear, plastics, packaging goods and toys.
The minister said that the proportion of trade volume in the processing sector has also been growing steadily. Electronic products and machinery are now the leading items that China exports to Canada, and as a result, the country's goods have become more popular and competitive.
The leading imports from Canada include wheat, fertilizer, and paper products.
One of the world's major grain producers and exporters, Canada first exported wheat to China 38 years ago and has so far sold more than 100 million tons worth over US$13 billion.
The trade minister said that China's imports of machinery and electronic products, especially technical equipment, have increased annually over the past few years.
High technology goods such as telecommunications and hydropower plants have also played a large part in this co-operation.
The Candu (Canadian Deuterium-Uranium Reactor) equipment that China bought from Canada for the third-phase project of the Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant, is the largest technology import shipment from Canada to date.
"China will continue to refine its laws and regulations concerning foreign economic co-operation and trade to strengthen the protection of the legitimate rights of overseas investors in accordance with the law," said the minister. "The Chinese Government intends to create an investment environment that is fair, transparent, in good order, is competitive and is guaranteed by relevant laws.
"China and Canada are influential countries across the Pacific Ocean, sharing a tradition of friendship," Shi noted, adding that there are no conflicts of fundamental interest.
"Economic and trade relations are a major part of the friendly co-operative relations between the two nations," he added.
"Differences in social systems, history, culture and values should never obstruct effective co-operation between the two countries, and that has been proved over and over in the past years," Shi said.
"The two countries are economically complementary, and there is great potential for bilateral economic and trade co-operation," he pointed out.
"Canada has advantages in its well developed agriculture, energy, transportation, electric power, telecommunications and raw materials, while China is concentrating on economic construction and puts a priority on development in those areas," he said.
"In those fields, China will provide Canadian companies with huge opportunities for marketing and investment," he said. "And the co-operation between the two countries still has room for growth."
Shi attributed the smooth development of economic and trade ties between China and Canada to the support, encouragement and promotional efforts of both governments.
"The two countries have witnessed frequent exchanges of high-level visits since 1994, including the visits by Canadian governor-general and prime minister and Chinese premier and chairman of the Chinese National People's Congress Standing Committee," he noted.
The minister went on to say; "During the state visit by President Jiang Zemin to Canada in November 1997, the two sides decided to establish a cross-century partnership of overall co-operation and this was a landmark step."