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The Canadian Press



By Helena Iveson

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty fended off questions about China's human rights record and the presence of tobacco growers on his trade mission Tuesday as he highlighted education, innovation and investment opportunities in the province.  


The premier is heading a group of more than 125 bankers, farmers, legislators, business representatives and educators on an 11-day, four-city tour of China.   In a speech to the Canada-China Business Council Tuesday night, McGuinty said Ontario and China could prosper together. As China develops into a global power, he said, ``Ontario can help increase the supply of high-quality facilities and resources in China.''   McGuinty defended the decision to let Ontario tobacco growers join the delegation.   ``The tobacco growers are part of the mission,'' the premier said. ``I wasn't going to discriminate against one group of farmers.''   China is becoming an important market for Ontario tobacco growers, accounting for about 10 per cent of the province's annual crop. But anti-smoking activists in Canada object to the inclusion of the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board in the trade mission.   Critics say increasing tobacco exports to China would aggravate what is already a serious health problem in the country, where smoking is widespread. They also say selling more Canadian tobacco to China would help illegal Chinese factories make counterfeit cigarettes that appeal to the taste of Canadian consumers, increasing the likelihood that such products would be smuggled into Canada.   McGuinty also responded to criticism of trading with China in light of because of Beijing's human rights record.   ``One way of dealing with this issue is to impose sanctions, but the outcome is that that affects the people who can least afford it,'' he said.   Instead, the premier said he would follow the approach of the federal government and the G8 countries and ``take the opportunity to engage with China to convey our fundamental beliefs.''   On Monday, for example, McGuinty spoke to a small group of law professors and students at Tsinghua University, one of China's most prestigious institutes of higher learning. He told them: ``Human rights and the rule of law are inextricably and fundamentally linked. I believe that we, in Ontario, can contribute to promoting respect for human rights in China by promoting respect for the rule of law.''   On the first trip to China by an Ontario premier in nearly 20 years, McGuinty said the goal was to establish long-lasting alliances rather than signing a few attention-grabbing deals.   ``We want to say that Ontario is open for business, and that Ontario is open to China,'' he said.   ``Chinese companies looking to expand to North America should consider Ontario a base.''   So far, members of the delegation have signed 11 agreements with Chinese organizations.   ``There is more than $30 billion worth of trade between the two countries, and almost half of it is trade between Ontario and China,'' McGuinty said.   Yet Canadian goods count for only one per cent of China's annual imports. About 1.6 per cent of Canadian exports go to China, and Canadian direct investment in China adds up to slightly less than one per cent of total foreign investment in China.   To try and up these numbers, the premier met with China's vice-minister of commerce about strengthening trade and investment with the province earlier Tuesday.   

(c) 2005 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved. BEIJING (CP).v

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