China suspends all Canadian meat imports, citing forged certifications

China has banned all Canadian meat imports as of Wednesday, citing the detection of a substance that is legal in Canada but outlawed in the Chinese market. 

The news comes amidst rapidly deteriorating relationships between Canada and China stemming from the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. CFO Meng Wanzhou due to a U.S. extradition request. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to attend the G20 summit in Japan at the end of the week — alongside Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

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According to a statement from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa, customs authorities recently found residues of ractopamine — a food additive banned in China and the European Union, but legal in countries like Canada, the United States and Japan — in Canadian pork bound for the Chinese market. Chinese officials said it has since "immediately suspended the import of port products from the relevant enterprises," as well as demanding Canadian officials to investigate.

The resulting investigation found there were 188 forged veterinary health certificates attached to Canadian pork shipments, Chinese officials said, adding that this discovery "reflects that the Canadian meat export supervision system exists obvious safety loopholes."

"In order to protect the safety of Chinese consumers, China has taken urgent preventive measures and requested the Canadian government to suspend the issuance of certificates for meat exported to China since June 25," the statement said.

The Canadian Pork Council confirmed that exports to China has been "temporarily suspended," adding the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has indeed stopped issuing all export certificates to China as of June 25. 

"This halt in Canadian exports is not the result of a food safety concern but the misuse of Canada’s reputation as a supplier of safe quality products," the statement from the CPC said, adding it is working with Canadian officials to better understand the situation - as well as to facilitate a quick solution.

According to CPC statistics, China is Canada's third-largest pork export market by value, valued at $514 million last year. Prior to the ban announced on Tuesday, pork exports to China — the world's largest consumer of pork — has increased 50 per cent year-over-year in 2019, officials noted. Separate data shows beef exports to China amounting to about $63 million so far this year.

B.C., by comparison, is not a major producer of either types of meat. The province’s pork production amounted to 516,915 hogs in 2017, far below major producers Quebec (8.7 million), Manitoba (5.4 million) and Ontario (4.1 million). As for beef, B.C.'s 192,000 head of beef cattle as of 2016 accounts for only five per cent of the national total; Alberta, in comparison, has 1.57 million head (40.9 per cent).

Relations between Canada and China has been frosty since Meng's arrest last December on U.S. claims that the Huawei executive and her company contravened existing trade sanctions against Iran, laundered the proceeds through the American financial system, and stole trade secrets from American companies like T-Mobile USA.

Two Canadian citizens have since been detained and charged with espionage in China, and Beijing has also banned canola imports from two of Canada's largest exporters. A trade lawyer interviewed by BIV earlier this month said he is aware of other Canadian commodities hitting unexpected barriers this year when attempting to export to China.

A recent Asia Pacific Foundation survey found that the friction between Canada and China has led to high levels of skepticism among the public for Asian foreign investment — especially from China and into the tech sector. Acceptance levels for Chinese investment was far lower than that found with other major Canadian trading partners such as the United States and Japan, the report said.

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