Trudeau Minister Stays Hopeful on Detainees, Plays Down China Vaccine Woes

Justin Trudeau’s top diplomat downplayed any political link to the potential collapse of a partnership between Canada and a Chinese company on a coronavirus vaccine.

Chinese customs hasn’t approved shipments of a drug developed by Tianjin-based CanSino Biologics Inc. for testing in Canada, according to the National Research Council, and the government agency will turn its focus to other partners as a result.

Trudeau Minister Stays Hopeful on Detainees, Plays Down China Vaccine Woes

That failure wasn’t “necessarily” tied to the bitter feud with Beijing that erupted with Canada’s arrest of a top Chinese executive on a U.S. extradition request in 2018, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Thursday.

China detained two Canadians and halted billions of dollars of agricultural imports in the weeks that followed, souring the Trudeau government’s ties with the nation’s second-largest trading partner.

“We are going through a difficult time,” Champagne told reporters on a teleconference from Beirut, detailing his efforts to press for the release of the Canadians as the extradition case against Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer proceeds in Vancouver. “I would not necessarily make a link between that discussion and the Canadian or the Chinese position when it comes to working on global health.”

While CanSino issued a statement Thursday saying its partnership with Canada “has not been terminated,” the National Research Council appears fed up with bureaucratic delays.

In an email Wednesday, the agency said the Chinese government introduced changes regarding the export of vaccines after the partnership agreement was reviewed and signed. “The process is not clear to the NRC,” it said. “We have no indication of when or if this will occur.”

Champagne also said he was hopeful of progress on the detained Canadians after what he described as a “robust discussion” with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi this week in Rome. The 90-minute meeting Tuesday evening, which was not previously scheduled, came together with the help of the Italian government.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that our voice has been heard, and I’m looking forward to improvement on the consular side,” Champagne said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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