Ready for Canada: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks on as his wife Laureen holds a panda in Chongqing, China, on Saturday. Two giant pandas will call Canada home for the next 10 years. (AP/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)
Canada wants to sell more oil to China but won't shy away from raising the issue of human rights as economic ties between the two strengthen, the Canadian prime minister said on Friday.
Stephen Harper said Canada has "abundant supplies of virtually every form of energy" anwill sell to whoever wants to buy.
"It's that simple," he said.
Harper said Canada wants to diversify its energy sales away from the United States, a major theme of his visit to energy-hungry China.
But he added that "in relations between China and Canada, you should expect us to continue to rai issues of fundamental freedoms and human rights."
"And to be a vocal advocate for these just as we will be an effective partner in our growing and mutually beneficial economic relationship."
The remarks to a business group in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou were his first public comments on human rights since he arrived in China on Tuesday. There were no senior Chinese officials in attendance.
Harper is heading a 40-strong delegation of Canadian business leaders that have signed US$3 billion in deals on Thursday.
Harper witnessed the signing of 23 agreements between Canadian companies and China, he said in a speech at a business forum in Beijing on the second day of his visit aimed at diversifying oil sales and bolstering ties with the Asian economic giant.
"Canada has the resources, technological sophistication, and geo-strategic positioning to complement China's economic growth strategy," Harper said. "And China's growth, in turn, complements our determination to diversify our export markets."
The companies that signed deals Thursday include aircraft and train builder Bombardier Inc. and telecom companies Telus Corp. and Bell Canada, Harper said.
Bombardier won several contracts to supply rail cars and other technology for Chinese public transit systems while the Canadian telecoms companies will upgrade their networks, Harper said.
Harper headed a 40-strong delegation of Canadian business leaders on his trip aimed in part at pushing oil sales and closer economic ties following President Barack Obama's rejection of a pipeline carrying Canadian oil across the continental United States.
In a speech at the same forum, Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang made a pitch for China as a ready buyer of Canadian energy.
"Canada is one of the countries with a deep energy and resource reserve. China is a stable and reliable consumer market." he said.
Li added that the sides should facilitate large-scale cooperation in oil, gas and mineral resource projects as well as work together more on nuclear and clean and renewable energy.
Overall trade between the sides surged to almost $50 billion in 2011, according to official Chinese figures. Li said the two countries should work to raise bilateral trade to $60 billion by 2015.
On Wednesday, Harper and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao oversaw the signing of agreements worth $3 billion to boost investment and promote energy exports to China. Harper met Chinese President Hu Jintao Thursday.
The visit highlights efforts by Canada to diversify energy sales. The US market currently absorbs 97 percent of Canadian oil exports.
Chinese state-owned companies have invested more than $16 billion in Canadian energy in the past two years and hope to gain steady supplies to fuel their country's booming economy. Chinese state-controlled Sinopec has a stake in a proposed Canadian pipeline to the Pacific Ocean that would substantially boost Chinese investment in Alberta oil sands.