Canada’s Liberal government is open to the idea of fostering better trade ties with China by easing foreign investment restrictions, a senior legislator said on a national political talk show broadcast on Sunday.
“It’s something we would consider amongst a number of different things,” David Lametti, parliamentary secretary to International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, said on CTV’s “Question Period.”
Canada’s former Conservative government clamped down on takeover bids for energy companies by foreign state-owned enterprises. The restriction came after China’s CNOOC Ltd made a bid for Calgary-based Nexen in 2012, prompting fears of external control of the country’s oil reserves.
Lametti said the government has not formally explored changing the rules, but is open to all proposals that might enhance trade.
He did not give details or a timeline, but said Canada needs to rebuild its relationship with China before starting to consider trade matters.
Global Affairs Canada, a government department which oversees international trade, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CNOOC’s bid for Nexen had prompted unrest among legislators in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party.
While it was approved, the Canadian government then placed heavy restrictions on foreign investment, saying takeover bids will in the future be approved only on an “exceptional basis.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an official visit to China last week, seeking deeper ties with the country. His government announced the signing of 56 deals with China worth more than C$1.2 billion ($915 million).
China, the world’s second-largest economy, has tried to sell Trudeau on a free trade treaty similar to pacts China has sealed with Australia and New Zealand.