China trade mission on ‘backburner’: Premier

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The GNWT has shelved its trade mission to China following diplomatic tensions and the arrests of Canadian citizens.

After Canadian authorities arrested China’s Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in December at the Vancouver airport, China detained approximately a dozen Canadians, including entrepreneur Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat.
“The fact that a number of individuals were apprehended in China gives us pause to think,” said Premier Bob McLeod.

Delegates met in China last year to discuss partnerships between the NWT and China. They are, from front left: Cathie Bolstad of NWT Tourism and Joanna Wong, marketing director of Flow Creative; from back left, Minister Wally Schumann, assistant deputy minister Tracy St. Denis, representatives from Blachford Lake Lodge, Yellowknife Tours, Aurora Village and Tundra North Tours and representatives from Flow Creative. photo courtesy of the department Industry, Tourism and Investment

“We were planning a trade mission to China for this year, but we have since put it on the back burner. We are waiting to see what happens.”

For more than a decade, government resources have been poured into promoting NWT tourism in the world’s most populous nation.

The GNWT is assuring its partners abroad that the NWT is open for business. Destinations Canada, which has an office in Beijing, has reassured the government that it’s “still business as usual,” said McLeod.

The government may still send delegates before the end of this term of government, he said.

Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne expressed concerns that the prosperous tourism relationship between the territory and China could be put at risk by diplomatic tensions.

Vanthuyne acknowledged that while Canada has international responsibilities, the recent arrests have burned bridges and left international relations “vulnerable and weak.”

Speaking in the NWT legislative assembly, Feb. 14, Vanthuyne asked the GNWT to remind Ottawa about the potential risks to NWT tourism.

“Let’s be energetic in making sure Ottawa understands the potential risks to our growing tourism sector, and our access to this huge market of travellers,” he said.

McLeod maintained that the Chinese government’s “tightening” on Canadian regional investments and business has had a limited effect on the NWT.

Despite the inflamed situation, Chinese government hasn’t removed Canada as an “approved destination.”

McLeod said the federal government has not reached out to the territorial government in relation to this issue.

 

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