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)

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

Victoria police are looking for a 38-year-old man after he allegedly assaulted and choked a missing 15-year-old victim in Beacon Hill Park Tuesday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
15-year-old choked in Beacon Hill tent, Victoria police assaulted while intervening

Police searching for 38-year-old suspect, two officers injured in altercation with park residents

This map shows the pharmacies in Greater Victoria offering the AstraZeneca vaccine for people born in 1981 and earlier. As the map shows, no pharmacies on the Saanich Peninsula are offering the vaccine. (B.C. Government map)
No pharmacies on Saanich Peninsula offering AstraZeneca vaccine

People born in 1981 and earlier eligible for AstraZeneca vaccines

Janitors at Uptown Shopping Centre voted to strike April 20, citing increased risk from the pandemic, minimum wage pay and no paid sick days. (Black Press Media file photo)
Janitors at Uptown Shopping Centre in Saanich vote to strike

Workers say they’re working in high-risk conditions with near minimum wage pay

Some Saanich firefighters have expressed concerns about first responders in the Island Health Region not being prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as an outbreak at a fire station would make service delivery a challenge. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich firefighters not prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine despite working on frontlines

Saanich members express frustration, department calls on Island Health to take action

Victoria police are searching for Andrew Swanson who was last seen in Victoria April 7 and is wanted on warrants for choking related to a domestic assault and obstructing police. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police searching for missing man wanted for domestic assault

Andrew Swanson, 47, last seen in Victoria April 7

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Canadian driver Paul Tracy pulls out of the pits during the morning session at the Molson Indy in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, July 26, 2003 (CP/Richard Lam)
Vancouver is considering hosting a Formula E race using electric cars

The race would be part of a three-day event focused on climate and sustainability

Chart from the April 20 B.C. budget shows sharp dip in real estate sales early in the COVID-19 pandemic and the even steeper climb since late 2020. (B.C. government)
Hot B.C. housing market drives property transfer tax gains

B.C. budget boosts tobacco, sweet drinks, carbon taxes

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. to help Canada with more COVID-19 vaccine supply, Biden says

The U.S. has already provided Canada with about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

B.C.’s 2021 budget is trending in the right direction to support farmers, says the BC Fruit Growers’ Association. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
BC Fruit Growers’ Association gives thumbs up to provincial budget

BCFGA general manager said budgetary investments put farming industry on a good trajectory for recovery

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Most Read