China Presses Re-elected Canadian Government to Free Huawei Executive Meng Wanzhou

By Reuters
November 6, 2019 Updated: November 7, 2019

BEIJING—China’s foreign ministry on Nov. 6 urged the re-elected Canadian government to release detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou amid bilateral tensions.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman at the ministry, made the comment at a regular press briefing.

Meng has been detained in Vancouver since December last year. She is charged in the United States with bank fraud, and is accused of misleading HSBC Holdings PLC about Huawei Technologies’ business in Iran, which is under U.S. sanctions.

Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition to the United States.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party held on to power after an election in October, though it was reduced to a minority government that needs the support in Parliament of a smaller left-leaning party.

Bilateral Tensions

Bilateral tensions heightened after police in Vancouver arrested Meng, the chief financial officer of China‘s Huawei Technologies, in December 2018 on a U.S. arrest warrant. Shortly afterward, Beijing detained two Canadian men—Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor—who were later charged for spying and are still being held.

Early this year China stopped purchasing Canadian canola seed, citing pest concerns, and in June authorities halted imports of Canadian beef and pork, citing bogus export certificates. Canadian officials confirmed at the time they had found falsified documents.

China was Canada’s third-largest pork market by value through August, with C$491 million ($373 million) in exports. Pork shipments to China had surged because of a deadly pig disease in parts of Asia.

In July, Canada offered a plan to reassure China about the security of its meat export system, and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has insisted the pork-and-beef trade issue was different from the canola dispute. Canada is challenging China on canola at the World Trade Organization.

“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, president of the Canadian Meat Council, in a statement.

Canada’s red meat industry estimated in September that China‘s suspension of imports had cost the sector close to C$100 million in losses.

The resolution of the pork and beef spat came after both countries named new ambassadors. Cong Peiwu officially took over as China‘s ambassador in Ottawa on Nov. 1, and Dominic Barton, a former business consultant, recently took over as Canada’s new envoy in Beijing.

Trudeau thanked Barton and the meat industry in a tweet for helping resolve the matter, confirming a statement from the Canadian Pork Council earlier on Tuesday hinting that the market had reopened.

“Canadian pork producers are pleased that the issues preventing the export of pork products to China have been resolved,” the pork council said in a statement.

By Ben Blanchard and Kelsey Johnson