KONG — In a final flurry of contract signings, handshaking and
backslapping, Prime Minister Jean Chretien wrapped up his second Team
Canada trade mission to China yesterday.
"We've done a lot of good business,"
Chretien said at his closing news conference, adding the 10-day
trip was "a great success."
But it took a last-minute deal
by Bombardier to pump up an embarrassingly small number of trade
contracts in Hong Kong.
Without Bombardier's 11th-
hour sale of six Regional Jets for $210 million, signed contracts
would have totalled only $51 million.
The total of $261 million in
firm contracts is significantly smaller than the $1.4 billion worth
signed in Beijing at the start of the 10-day mission.
Still, Chretien's largest-ever
Team Canada trip, involving more than 600 entrepreneurs, premiers
and territorial leaders, saw 294 agreements reached worth $5.7 billion
if they all come to fruition.
That's less than the 1994 Team
Canada trade mission to China that netted $8.9 billion in deals.
Ontario Premier Mike Harris
warned against judging the mission's success by the amount of deals
"Its not a good way to judge
a trip," he said. "It's how many deals will take place from here
Harris said Ontario businesses
are leaving China today more optimistic about future business partnerships.
"If I came here and I was told
that we wouldn't sign one deal, I'd still come," he said.
By the time Team Canada hit
Hong Kong Thursday, the business delegation had dwindled from its
original 580 to 171.
Equally as present as the business
cards, big lunches and schmoozing on this mission was the issue
of China's terrible human rights record.
Chretien, met by only a handful
of protesters in Hong Kong at two events, has faced a barrage of
questions on the issue.
While Chretien has raised the
human rights issue frequently, a leading Chinese labour activist
complained Canadian business people haven't been living up to that
Instead, some have been demanding
Chinese workers put in long hours without overtime, complained Han
"Canadian business people's
behaviour in our country should be improved . . . (to) respect labour
law and workers' rights," he told reporters.
Earlier in the mission, Team
Canada visited the Montreal Pavilion at Shanghai's Century Park
where activists complain construction workers were forced last year
to work long hours seven days a week and sleep in tents. The $5-million
pavilion was built with tax dollars from Ottawa, Quebec and Montreal.
"That's not only Canadian business,
that's involved with Canadian governments and that's absolutely
unacceptable," said Han, who
spent two years in a Chinese prison for organizing workers at the
time of Beijing's 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square.
Chretien, who returns to Canada
today, said he expects Canadian business people to respect labour
laws, but admitted that doesn't always happen.
"There might be some problems
from day to day . . . when you deal in a country that big with 1.2
billion people, you know perhaps some laws are broken once in a
while," he said.
"We have this situation in
any country around the world."
But Chretien insisted his statements
supporting those rights have made an impact, particularly since
the Chinese government is anxious to make reforms needed to finally
join the World Trade Organization this year.
Ordinary citizens of China,
however, won't have heard Chretien's message because of media censorship,
* E-mail Stephanie Rubec