China's president confronted Trudeau last year on the sidelines of G20 talks
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said hello and had a brief exchange with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday at a summit in San Francisco, but did not formally meet with him.
During a press conference on Friday, Trudeau said he talked to Xi about Canada-China relations.
"I talked about how we need to keep our officials and teams working together to try and create constructive dialogue around issues that matter to us individually, but also matter to the world," Trudeau said of his brief conversation with Xi.
"This is part of the ongoing engagement that Canada needs to have around the world, including with countries we disagree with."
When asked what Xi said in response, Trudeau said China's president simply "acknowledged" what he said.
Trudeau has not had a formal bilateral meeting with Xi at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit as the U.S. and China work to restore diplomatic dialogue.
When asked why there wasn't a meeting with Xi, Trudeau said diplomats have started constructive talks with China, but it's a long, gradual process to eventually meet and they're not there yet.
Trudeau and Xi did happen to be positioned next to each other during the summit's annual family photo. The prime minister was seen on camera acknowledging Xi with a nod.
Trudeau, Xi stand next to each other in APEC leaders' photo
1 day ago
Featured Videorime Minister Justin Trudeau stood next to Chinese President Xi Jinping for the leaders' photo at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in San Francisco.
When CBC News asked about a possible meeting, Canada's special envoy to the Indo-Pacific said Thursday there would be opportunities for leaders to have conversations on the sidelines. Ian McKay says it "would be a good thing" and that "they have a lot to discuss."
"I think there's a pathway forward," said McKay, who is also Canada's ambassador to Japan.
"I think frankly that yesterday's bilateral between President Biden and President Xi was a good signal not just to those two countries, but the entire region and in fact the whole world that perhaps there's a reset in perspectives and a reset in a willingness to engage in more consistent, more broader, more realistic levels.
"We're very happy and very supportive of that."
U.S. President Joe Biden emerged from a rare four-hour meeting on Wednesday with Xi touting they had "some of the most constructive and productive conversations we've had."
Biden said he reached an agreement with Xi on curbing fentanyl production and restarting military-to-military contact to try to avoid any miscommunications that could lead to a conflict. But after the carefully planned meeting, Biden upset China by calling him a dictator at the end of the press conference.
"He's a dictator in the sense that he's a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that's based on a form of government totally different than ours," said Biden.
China's foreign ministry called it "extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation," according to Reuters.
Trudeau wouldn't explicitly repeat Biden's claims when asked Friday if he thinks Xi is a dictator.
"We can get into all sorts of different definitions. The fact is, [Xi] is not running a democracy. It's an authoritarian state," Trudeau said.
Tense exchange last year
The last time Trudeau spoke to Xi, on the sidelines of G20 talks in Bali a year ago, a tense exchange unfolded.
Xi confronted Trudeau and criticized him over alleged leaks of their closed-door meeting. Since then, evidence of election interference from the Chinese Communist Party has led to the government launching a public inquiry.
Diplomats have also been expelled from both countries in a tit for tat.
China's Xi Jinping scolds Justin Trudeau at the G20
1 year ago
Featured VideoChinese President Xi Jinping corners Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the G20 summit to rebuke him for releasing details to the public about their meeting the day before. The summit ended without a clear consensus to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine.
There have been no signs publicly that Canada is trying to warm the Canada-China relationship at the summit.
A Canadian official on Tuesday said Canada's approach to China wouldn't change. Trudeau also said he would continue to collaborate with China on issues like climate change and challenge Beijing on issues such as human rights.
Canada's ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, said she is not aware of Canada asking Biden to bring up any issues with Xi on its behalf.
"Canada is raising its own issues as we see fit with partners," Hillman said.
Hillman called the Biden and Xi meeting "an accomplishment" that is "good for the world."
"As a diplomat I always think it's important for countries to be talking to each other," she said. "We do engage with the Chinese at senior officials levels and there are other discussions no doubt that will flow."
When asked by CBC News if China is working on its relationship with Canada, as it is with the U.S., a spokesperson for China's embassy in the U.S. said "China attaches importance to its relationship with Canada."
"We hope the Canadian side will work with the Chinese side and, in a spirit of mutual respect and seeking common ground, do more to enhance mutual trust and co-operation," wrote Liu Pengyu with the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the U.S.
Jonathan Berkshire Miller, director of foreign affairs, national defence and national security at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, says it's too politically risky for Canada "to sort of look soft on China" amid the interference inquiry.
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