Feb. 6 - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada wants to expand economic ties with China, in the wake of the U.S. decision to block the Keystone oil pipeline project. Deborah Gembara reports.
On the heels of the Obama administration's decision to reject the Keystone oil pipeline --- Canada is taking its business to China. Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to Reuters in Ottawa -- ahead of the country's most important top-level trade mission to Beijing in almost 15 years. SOUNDBITE: Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying: "As much as I want to see that Keystone project proceed, I think this incident, and there are other economics involved obviously, but they all underscore the fact that it is in this country's national interest to be able to sell products beyond the United States and I don't think a reversal of gan American decision can change that fundamental reality. So I think it is absolutely essential that we find ways of being able to sell our products to the biggest growing markets in the world, and those are in Asia." The Keystone pipeline, proposed to carry crude from the Alberta oil sands to Texas refineries -- was blocked by the U.S. State Department last month because of environmental concerns. The move leaves Canada looking for trading partners -- with the Prime Minster acknowledging ongoing human rights concerns with Beijing. SOUNDBITE: Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying: "Whenever we meet with our Chinese counterparts we obviously raise these issues generally and we raise a number of specific cases. There are obviously human rights and other specific consular cases that are of some significant concern to this government and we raise those things regularly, including in all of the appropriate leaders' meetings and we will continue to do that. And my judgment is this, that I obviously welcome the growth of the Chinese economy but I remain convinced as we've seen in our own history and around the world, and in the long term, economic and political progress are linked. One helps the other and ultimately if they don't both move together, one will retard the other. So I think this is in everybody's interest, the progress in those areas." Harper boarded a plane to Beijing on Monday and is expected to meet with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Deborah Gembara, Reuters.