President Donald Trump, left, talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they arrive for the G-20 summit session on women’s workforce participation, future of work, and aging societies in Osaka, Japan, in Osaka, Japan, Saturday, June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

At G20, Trudeau highlights plight of Canadians in China, but details scarce

Canadian government’s strategies included trying to rally support from other G20 countries

Justin Trudeau kept his cards close to the vest Saturday as he wrapped up this weekend’s high-stakes G20 meetings in Japan, acknowledging Canada’s protracted impasse with China but offering few details about the ongoing effort to liberate the two Canadians caught in the crossfire.

The arrest in China of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — victims, from Canada’s perspective, of a three-way diplomatic standoff rooted primarily in a dispute between the United States and Beijing — came up in sideline talks with President Xi Jinping, the prime minister said before jetting back to Ottawa.

But Trudeau would say little else about what he called a “challenging moment” for Canada, and it remained agonizingly unclear whether U.S. President Donald Trump had made good on his promise to raise the issue in his own bilateral meeting with Xi.

“I think it was important that I have an opportunity to have face-to-face discussions with President Xi on this issue,” Trudeau said. The two did not formally meet, but were spotted having discussions on the margins of the gathering — “constructive interactions,” in the words of the Prime Minister’s Office.

READ MORE: Trudeau leans on Trump to help Canadians detained in China at G20 summit

“We take the situation of the two Canadians detained in China extremely seriously, and it was important we have those exchanges,” Trudeau added.

One of the Canadian government’s strategies going into the meetings was to rally support from other G20 countries during the two days of talks, and the PMO said Friday that Canada received “broad” support from its European partners on the matter.

But it was Trump’s commitment to confront Xi about Kovrig and Spavor, secured during Trudeau’s meeting with the president last week in the Oval Office, that was widely seen as the first real hope for progress in what has evolved into an intractable conflict. Tensions with China have been on the rise since December, when Canada detained Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the U.S. government.

Meng, the chief financial officer of telecom titan Huawei Technologies, is facing charges in the U.S. of violating sanctions against Iran. She is free on bail but under partial house arrest in Vancouver as she awaits an extradition hearing; the detention in China of the two Canadian citizens, which happened less than two weeks later, is widely considered an act of retribution.

“Many of our allies around the world have been highlighting the situation of the two Canadians detained in China and we are confident that the (U.S.) president also brought that up, but you’ll have to ask him for details,” Trudeau said.

But in his own post-G20 press conference, marked by a reboot of stalled trade talks between the White House and Beijing, Trump didn’t explicitly mention Kovrig and Spavor. Huawei, which the U.S. and other countries see as a potentially serious threat to national and global security, did come up — but not Meng.

“That was not discussed,” Trump said. “We did discuss Huawei, but we didn’t discuss her situation.” Huawei would have to be the last issue discussed in trade talks with China, he added.

Trump said existing U.S. tariffs would remain in place against Chinese imports while negotiations continue, but that additional tariffs he’s threatened to slap on billions worth of other Chinese goods will not be triggered for the “time being.” He added that the U.S. and China would restart stalled trade talks, saying, “we’re going to work with China where we left off.”

The U.S. has imposed 25 per cent import taxes on $250 billion in Chinese products and is threatening to target another $300 billion — a move that would extend the tariffs to virtually everything China ships to the U.S. China has lashed back with tariffs on $110 billion in American goods, focusing on agricultural products in a direct and painful shot at Trump supporters in the U.S. farm belt.

A central point of friction between the U.S. and China is the decision by the Americans to deem Huawei as “incompatible” with its security interests and that of its allies. But that appears to have taken a back seat to the newly rekindled efforts to secure a trade agreement — a development that likely has farmers, exporters and financial markets exhaling with relief.

Trump, who said he has “become friends” with Xi, said he intends to allow U.S. companies to sell their products to Huawei, but he was not yet willing to remove the company from a trade blacklist.

The U.S. president also had his first face-to-face sit-down with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman since the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the crown prince directed the grisly murder of Washington Post columnist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Trump, who referred to Prince Mohammed as his “friend,” has long sought to minimize the crown prince’s role in the murder and has been reluctant to criticize the killing of the royal critic at a Saudi consulate in Turkey last year. Trump views the kingdom as the lynchpin of U.S.’ Middle East strategy to counter Iran.

In a wide-ranging news conference after the summit, Trump called the killing of Khashoggi “horrible,” but said Saudi Arabia had “been a terrific ally.” He suggested he was satisfied with steps the country is taking to prosecute some of those involved, while claiming that “nobody so far has pointed directly a finger” at Saudi Arabia’s future king. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that bin Salman must have at least known of the plot.

Trudeau for his part acknowledged attending a G20 session on empowering women that was also attended by bin Salman, whose regime — initially seen as progressive on the issue of women’s rights — has since been widely criticized for detaining activists and backsliding on human rights issues in general. He said he raised Canada’s concerns about Khashoggi and human rights.

Trudeau noted that next year’s G20 summit will be held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

“Since they are hosting next year, there is an opportunity for them to demonstrate the reforms they have begun to undertake and move quicker on that, and that Canada certainly hopes there will be forward progress.”

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Time for some tick talk to keep people and pets safe from pests

Pesky creatures peak in June, but are out there lurking throughout summer and fall

Historic Hat Creek finds novel way to keep part of site open

VIP shopping experience offers people private visit to site’s gift shop

Cariboo ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

RCMP urge Williams Lake residents to be cautious as suspect remains on the loose

Man seen speeding on Highway 97 fled from police after colliding with RCMP vehicle

100 Mile’s longest-serving radio host continues to be off the air

Larry Rode is still recovering from a stroke

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Greater Victoria drive-thru window smashed after man receives burger without mustard

Greater Victoria Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit was en route as whale broke free from prawn trap line

Most Read