China is attempting to get trade relations back on track with Ottawa after several years of cooling diplomatic ties, according to Beijing’s ambassador in Canada.

“The strained relations between our two countries is actually not what we would like to see,” said Cong Peiwu, China’s ambassador to Canada in a recent interview. “We can be engaged in a candid and constructive dialogue.”

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly spoke with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on the phone earlier this year before the two met for a meeting in Germany in February. 

Those two exchanges make for an improvement in talks already between the two, when compared to last year when they only spoke once. 

During both conversations China made it clear that for the two nations to begin improving their trade relationship, Canada must first accept responsibility for causing the diplomatic strain in the first place. 

“The responsibility does not lie with China,” said Cong. 

Other demands China is placing on Canada for a better relationship include “mutual respect,” which involves Canada not recognizing an independent Taiwan as well as fewer trade and science restrictions, which Cong referred to as “win-win cooperation.”

However, Joly on the other hand is seeking a “pragmatic diplomacy” approach which aims to strengthen ties with countries that Canada has major disagreements with, including Saudi Arabia. 

Joly has not announced any plans to visit China in the near future.

However, agencies such as the Canada China Business Council argue that Canadian industries are losing ground with China when compared to competitors in the U.S., Australia and Europe. 

This is in part due to Canadian businesses’ perception of how the Chinese government operates. 

A survey conducted by the industry group last fall found that Canadian businesses had a “public and corporate sentiment on China” that proved to be a “tremendous obstacle.”

“Despite China’s emergence from COVID-19 in early 2023, things are not back to business as usual. Events of the past five years have had a striking impact on Canada-China business,” reads the survey. 

“While the Western world has a complicated relationship with China, and many competitor country surveys demonstrate downward trends, Canada’s results lag our competitors and are far worse than the ‘good old days’ of 2018.” 

The survey found that Canadian businesses also fear working with China over political differences, such as Beijing’s harsh COVID-zero restrictions and the detainment of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, despite that situation now being resolved. 

Other key findings included businesses now feeling external pressures more acutely and lower profitability in recent years.