TRI-CITIES BUSINESSES CAUTIOUS ABOUT TRADE WITH CHINA
The BC Chamber’s recent Collective Perspective Report 2019-2020 is highlighting how shifting public opinion towards China is also apparent among the broader business community in BC and the Tri-Cities. The report, compiled from the answers of almost 1600 participant businesses across the province, asked respondents about their “preferred approach towards China and trade.”
Provincially, 51% are open to more trade with China but wary about China generally, with a further 31% indicating that Canada should avoid becoming more entangled and dependent on trade with China altogether. Only 18% of respondents would like to see Canada push for closer relations including free trade. Opinions in the Tri-Cities mirror those provincially, but came out slightly more polarized.
Those numbers show a divergence from previous surveys of Canadians attitudes towards free trade with China. According to the Asia Pacific Foundation, support for free trade with China had been growing among Canadians from 2014 until 2018 when it peaked at 59% (1). A similar survey conducted by UBC showed moderate or strong support for a free trade agreement with China at almost 70% (2). Those numbers likely reflected the more pragmatic approach that many Canadians wanted to pursue in the aftermath of Canada-US trade tensions during 2017-2018.
The Collective Perspective Report supports the narrative of a trend shift in Sino-Canadian relations that started with the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, and has since escalated with the detention of two Canadians in China, Chinese freezes on Canadian canola exports, and questions around Huawei’s risk to Canada’s national security. After a turbulent 2019, businesses are becoming increasingly concerned about how China’s growing global influence could impact Canada, even while recognizing the economic benefits of a deeper trade relationship with the rising Asian power.
Other Key Insights:
To access the full report, click here.
(1) Asia Pacific Foundation. “National Opinion Poll 2018: Canadian Views on Asia.” Pg. 27. URL: https://www.asiapacific.ca/sites/default/files/filefield/nop2018_0.pdf
(2) Evans, Paul and Xiaojun Li. University of British Columbia. “Canadian Public Attitudes on China and Canada-China Relations.” Pg. 17. URL: http://iar2015.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2017/04/Full-Report-17oct.pdf