Canadian lawmakers plan Taiwan trip amid rising China tensions

Air Force soldiers clear the ground in front of an armed F-16V fighter jet, during a drill at Taiwan's Hualien Air Force base on Aug 17, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

OTTAWA (REUTERS) - A delegation of Canadian lawmakers plans to visit Taiwan in October to seek economic opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, Liberal Member of Parliament Judy Sgro said on Wednesday (Aug 17), a move that could further stoke tensions between China and the West.

The relationship between China and the West has worsened since US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan earlier this month against Beijing's wishes.

China claims Taiwan as its territory and is against foreign politicians visiting the island. Democratically governed Taiwan rejects China's claims.

In response to Mrs Pelosi's visit, China restricted trade and launched massive military drills around Taiwan, as well as slapped sanctions on Mrs Pelosi.

Beijing also imposed sanctions on a Lithuanian minister who visited Taiwan days after Mrs Pelosi's trip.

China said another trip by US lawmakers to the capital Taipei on Sunday was an infringement on its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Ms Sgro said members of a parliamentary committee on trade have been planning to visit the self-ruled island for some time.

"The intent is not to disrupt and cause problems for Taiwan, or problems for China. It's about trade, it's about friendship, it's about opportunities for Canada, in that whole Asia-Pacific region," Ms Sgro, who heads the trade panel, told Reuters.

She said Canadian lawmakers have visited Taiwan bi-annually in the past but stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"This is part of an ongoing effort for us to ensure that the doors are open for Canadian companies wherever there's trade opportunity," Ms Sgro said.

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Conservative MP and vice-chairman on the trade committee, Mr Randy Hoback, said he would seek guidance from the Canadian foreign ministry before deciding on visiting Taiwan.

"I think we need to get back to normalcy in a lot of things and one of that is in visits and having interaction from country to country," Mr Hoback told Reuters.

A long-running standoff between Canada and China ended last year when US prosecutors agreed to end a bank fraud case against Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, a high-profile Chinese businesswoman.

She was held under house arrest in Canada during extradition proceedings.

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After Ms Meng was freed, China liberated two Canadians who had been held by Beijing on espionage charges.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government said it respected the decision by lawmakers to visit Taiwan.

"Parliamentary associations and friendship groups travel regularly and we respect their independence," Canada's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly earlier this month said US-China tensions after Mrs Pelosi's visit could destabilise the Taiwan Strait region and called on Beijing to de-escalate the situation.

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