Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today Canadian beef and pork exports to China will resume, closing the file on just one of the irritants in the Ottawa-Beijing relationship.
"Good news for Canadian farmers today," Trudeau tweeted today. "Thanks to Ambassador [Dominic] Barton and the Canadian meat industry for their work on re-opening this important market for our meat producers and their families."
China, one of Canada's biggest export markets for beef and pork, halted Canadian shipments in June after Chinese customs authorities reported discovering residue of the banned additive ractopamine in a batch of pork products.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) later confirmed the shipment's export certificate was forged.
The dispute erupted as diplomatic tensions between Canada and China were ramping up following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last December on a U.S. warrant. Within days, China detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
A government source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told CBC News Canadian officials are still being cautious.
They said the government has received a letter from China, but the real test will be whether the first shipment is well received.
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr put out a joint statement today saying their departments have been working with the CFIA and the embassy in Beijing to engage with China over the past few months.
"We will continue to work closely with beef and pork producers and processors in the coming days and weeks to ensure successful resumption of trade," they said.
The source said Canada has kept up pressure on China since the summer, adding that the recent exchange of ambassadors went well.
Barton, a former consultant and economic adviser, was named Canada's representative in September. That same month, China's new ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, took up his new role in Ottawa.
Relationship still tense
Despite the victory on this file, former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said he doesn't think this move suggests a thawing of the Canada-China dispute.
China continues to block imports of Canadian canola, claiming contamination. Canada has taken that case to the World Trade Organization.
"I don't see any possibility of [a thaw]. In fact, you have to think also in terms of the Chinese culture, and President Xi doesn't want to lose face," Saint-Jacques said.
Saint-Jacques said the devastating outbreak of African swine fever in China likely played a role in the resolution of the dispute.
"[China] had no choice but to resume imports from Canada," he told CBC. And "Canada will provide high-quality, good-priced pork, and this is good news for our producers."
Still, the Canadian Meat Council immediately called word of a break in the trade dispute "great news."
"Our long-standing trade relationship with China is very important to both sides and this represents an important step for both countries" said Chris White in a media statement.
The NDP said it wants the federal government to provide compensation to affected producers.
"The Liberals need to come through with compensation for Canadian producers for their losses. While the relationship with China is a delicate one, the Liberals' inaction has cost our producers deeply — not just on this front but on the ongoing challenges with canola trade with China," said NDP MP-elect Alistair MacGregor, from the B.C. riding of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.
RCMP investigating certificate
While the country of origin of the meat is unknown, Bibeau has suggested someone likely was exploiting the "Canadian brand."
The Mounties were called in to investigate the origins of the fake pork export certificate this summer.
"While we are not in a position to comment on the status of this file so as to protect the integrity of the overall investigative process, we can confirm that we have been actively engaged with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency since last June," said RCMP National Division spokesperson Stéphanie Dumoulin in an email Tuesday.
"However, no further comment can be offered on the matter at this time."