Canadian parliamentary delegation visits US Congress to discuss China policies


Members of a special Canadian parliamentary committee on China met with their US counterparts for the first time last week, signalling closer alignment of the two legislatures’ approaches towards Beijing.

Seven members from Canada’s top four political parties met with a bipartisan group of representatives from the US House select committee on China, as well as with members of other House and Senate committees. They also held discussions with analysts from think tanks like the Wilson Centre and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

“By coordinating with our US counterparts, we can ensure that the work of our committee is amplified,” Ken Hardie, chair of the Canadian special committee and an MP of the ruling Liberal Party, said.

“I hope that this discussion with the US select committee will mark the beginning of an ongoing dialogue between both committees.”

The Canadian delegation with Representative Bill Huizenga (third from left) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Photo: X

Hardie noted that the US committee was mainly focused on “competition” with China while the Canadian panel is focused more generally on the Canada-China relationship.

Even so, he said he hoped US members could visit Canada for further discussions.

“We’re both Pacific nations and we can complement each other’s actions,” Hardie said, noting “the missed opportunity” when each country failed to include the other in their Indo-Pacific strategies. “The US right now is engaged in a lot of economic discussions with Pacific Rim countries, but not Canada.”

Hardie suggested that the US and Canada could coordinate on responses to Beijing’s alleged attempts to target the Chinese diaspora and influence education in both countries.

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Similar to Washington, Ottawa has held intense deliberations about how to tackle Chinese influence, even while it maintains high-level rhetoric of cooperating with Beijing “where it makes sense”. Canada has launched a public inquiry into foreign interference and is poised to introduce a foreign agents registry.

And just as the US Congress has on the White House, the Canadian Parliament has increasingly constrained Ottawa’s diplomatic efforts towards Beijing, a reflection of plunging public sentiment towards China in recent years.

Both sides shared concerns about Beijing’s “bellicose activities towards Taiwan”, the risks associated with Chinese acquisition of foreign companies, the fragility of North American investments in China – while agreeing not to isolate China, he added.

Members of the Canadian special committee, including Tom Kmiec of the Conservative Party, Heather McPherson of the New Democratic Party and Stéphane Bergeron of the Bloc Québécois, highlighted human rights as a key discussion topic.

The two sides discussed “advocating for stronger human rights legislation, improving protection against forced labour, and implementing a stronger human rights framework for companies working abroad”, McPherson said.


Chinese Canadians caught in the crossfire as Canada-China tensions rise

Chinese Canadians caught in the crossfire as Canada-China tensions rise

Canada and the US are largely aligned on China policy but with differences in emphasis.

Regarding suspected Chinese interference or intellectual property theft, Gordon Houlden of the China Institute at the University of Alberta said that the US had been more active in using its justice system to address such cases. Canada tended to have “greater caution about going the public route” in approaching these cases, he said.

Canada is also more susceptible to China’s economic coercion, and has fewer bargaining chips to repair its relationship with China compared to the US, analysts said.

While the US and China have re-established high-level dialogues in the past year, Canada and China have largely struggled to get their relationship on a stable footing since the episode of the “two Michaels” – when Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were detained by Beijing after Ottawa arrested Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant in 2018.

The House of Commons Special Committee on the Canada – People’s Republic of China Relationship was established in 2019, while the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party was established earlier this year. Both have the mandate to present policy recommendations.

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The Canadian committee’s trip was not the first time a committee member had visited Washington. In September, a US congressional-executive commission invited Conservative Party MP Michael Chong to testify on Capitol Hill about his experiences as a target of suspected Chinese government interference.

While the Canada committee may find useful models in the US, Pascale Massot of the University of Ottawa said there was also room to learn from its failures in targeting people of Chinese or Asian origin.

“We should be mindful of excesses that we have seen south of the border [and] make sure that the consequences of the policies that are implemented are not borne excessively by innocent people for no other reason than their heritage.”

The delegation also raised other issues. One distinction between the two countries is their stances on multilateral trade pacts. Canada still seeks them, while the US has cooled on them in recent years.

“The United States has been unable over the past five plus years to get behind multilateral trade agreements … while on both sides of the aisle in Canada, there is support for global trade agreements,” Massot said.

And Hardie noted an opportunity for both countries to collaborate on rare earths processing, referring to China’s recent tightening on graphite exports and the opening of a new graphite mine in Quebec – the only one in North America.


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