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Bilateral Relations

Fact Sheet  | PDF Version * (140 KB)

Pierre Trudeau and Mao Zedong

The Canada-China relationship is a vast and dynamic web of cooperative linkages and undertakings, dating from well before the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1970 and growing continuously year on year. Canada’s long-standing and comprehensive relationship with the People’s Republic of China operates at many levels and in many areas, including in trade, governance, health, development, education and culture. Bilateral cooperation is strong – many Canadian government departments have productive cooperation programs and memoranda of understanding with their Chinese counterparts, and hold regular exchanges at various levels. Both countries enjoy an active working relationship in international fora, such as the G20, UN, APEC, and WTO.

Strong people-to-people ties exist between the two countries: over 1.3 million Canadian residents are of Chinese origin, with over 110,000 Chinese students at Canadian educational institutions in 2014. Chinese is Canada’s third most spoken language after English and French, and immigrants born in China (including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) form one of the largest groups within Canada’s immigrant population. Those ties are reflected in the numerous twinning partnerships at the provincial and municipal levels.

Prime Minister Harper reviews the honour guard

High-level visits in both directions have elevated the bilateral relationship, most notably visits to China by Prime Minster Harper in November 2014, February 2012 and December 2009, a visit to China by Governor General David Johnston in October 2013, and a visit to Canada by President Hu Jintao in June 2010.

Recent Visits

During Prime Minister Harper’s visit in 2014, the two countries agreed to a series of initiatives, including: plans to implement two new ministerial dialogue mechanisms (Economic and Financial Strategic Dialogue and the Foreign Affairs Ministers Dialogue), a currency swap agreement and renminbi clearing arrangement, as well as commitments on further cooperation on market access for Canadian goods, nuclear energy, air transport, health, and cultural exchanges. In addition, both sides announced 2015 to 2016 as the Year of People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges between Canada and China, partly in recognition of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Among the outcomes of Prime Minister Harper’s visit in 2012 were: the conclusion of negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement; agreement on a legally binding Protocol to supplement the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement that will facilitate the export of Canadian uranium to China; and an announcement to commence exploratory discussions on deepening trade and economic relations following the conclusion of an Economic Complementarities Study in the spring of 2012. Both sides agreed to increase people-to-people exchanges, expressing an aspirational target of 100,000 students studying in each other’s country within five years.

The Canada-China Joint Statement issued during Prime Minister Harper’s December 2009 visit has served as a roadmap for the relationship in four priority areas: governance (human rights, rule of law), trade and investment, energy and environment, and health (public health and pandemics). Since then, education has been identified as the fifth pillar of the relationship. This has resulted in ongoing work in a number of areas, including:

  • The Strategic Working Group (SWG), a Deputy Minister-level bilateral mechanism which focuses on multilateral cooperation; natural resources and energy; and trade and investment;
  • The promotion of trade and investment, in particular through the Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETC), a bilateral consultation mechanism allowing senior officials to review and seek opportunities to advance two-way trade;
  • The fostering of people-to-people links, notably through education and tourism;
  • The enhancement of judicial and law enforcement cooperation.

The enormous potential for new Canada-China partnerships reflects Canada's strengths. Click on the links below to learn more about Canada.

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