AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Growth of health care spending in Canada slowing down, report says by Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press Posted Oct 30, 2012 3:09 pm MDT OTTAWA – Growth in health-care spending is forecast to continue to slow this year, largely because of a sluggish economy and budgetary deficits, says a newly released report.The report, from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, says health-care spending is expected to increase by 3.4 per cent this year, after rising at an average of seven per cent a year during the period from 1998 to 2008.That would make 2012 the year with the lowest rate of growth since the mid-1990s.“We’re in a period of more modest economic growth times these days,” Christopher Kuchciak, CIHI’s manager of health expenditures, said in an interview.“With slower growth, as well as government budget deficits that we see across the country, the focus seems to be nowadays more on cost control and cost containment.”The report shows health-care costs have doubled in the past decade, and are expected to reach $207 billion this year — up from $200 billion last year.One of the biggest drivers of the rising costs in recent years has been the fees paid to physicians. However, the report says payments to physicians are expected to increase by 3.6 per cent this year, while hospital spending is forecast to grow by 3.1 per cent — the lowest rates of growth since the late 1990s.The growth rate for drug spending is also expected to be down from last year. The slowdown is part of a decade-long trend that’s likely a result of fewer drugs coming onto the market, blockbuster drugs coming off patent and provinces and territories putting in place generic price controls, the report says.Kuchciak said this latest slowdown in growth stands in contrast to the mid-1990s, when people worried about fewer hospital beds and staff.“There was that period in the mid-90s when we saw that cost constraint and budget deficit and cost-control measures,” he said.“It looks like we’re entering another period where money is tight and people are looking at cost-effective ways — rather than going back to the mid-90s, when there were more drastic measures taking place.”The provinces and territories are expected to spend $135 billion on health care this year. The report says spending varies across the country. Spending per person is highest in Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta, and lowest in Quebec and British Columbia.The report notes an aging population was responsible for just 0.9 per cent of the cost increases between 2000 and 2010.“We hear a lot about this grey tsunami … that’s just going to swamp the health-care system,” Kuchciak said.“But what we’re seeing is, really, population aging is more like a glacier. It moves, but it moves slowly and the health-care system can evolve. And we do see steps being taken by those policy-makers and decision-makers to evolve and change the way they deliver health care in order to control those costs.”
AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Anheuser-Busch InBev has reached a final agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that could settle a dispute over its $20.1 billion acquisition of the Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo.The world’s largest brewer has been trying since June to buy the half of Grupo Modelo that it doesn’t already own. The Justice Department sued to block the deal out of concern that a company that massive would stifle competition in the U.S.The companies involved in a complicated series of deals surrounding the acquisition have negotiated for months with Justice officials to try and clear the way. They submitted an agreement Friday to the court and if approved, it is expected to close in June.AB InBev originally sought to get access to all of Modelo’s business U.S. and abroad. But in an effort to appease regulators that blocked the deal, AB InBev later struck a side deal that gives control of the production of Corona and other Modelo beers sold in the U.S. to a competitor, Constellation Brands Inc.The agreement announced Friday is similar to the modified deal, but instead requires the sale of Modelo’s entire U.S. business to Constellation.That would give Constellation not just the licenses of Modelo brand beers in the U.S., but also brewing capabilities so that it is not relying on AB InBev at all. The agreement also requires the sale of AB InBev’s stake in a joint venture agreement and other assets, rights and interests so that Constellation can compete in the U.S. beer market independent of AB InBev.“This is a win for the $80 billion U.S. beer market and consumers,” said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ’s antitrust division. “If this settlement makes just a one per cent difference in prices, U.S. consumers will save almost $1 billion a year.”Baer said the deal as originally presented was potentially transformative in a bad way for consumers, but this agreement creates an independent owner of Modelo brands in the U.S. that will be positioned to provide consumers with more brands at competitive prices.Constellation will effectively replace Modelo as a competitor in the U.S. selling its Corona and other brands domestically.The company, based in Victor, N.Y., expects the deal will double its sales and solidify its place in the U.S. beer market.The settlement also will benefit AB InBev, based in Belgium, which will still add Modelo brands globally to its already expansive portfolio of beers that includes Budweiser, Stella Artois and others.The beer industry has always been fiercely competitive, but brewers have come under incredible pressure since the global downturn.Unemployment hit young men more than other populations and that took a toll on sales, as they represent beer maker’s key market.Domestic beer production, a key indicator of market activity, increased 1 per cent in 2012 after falling for three straight years, according to industry group the Beer Institute. Production hit nearly 194 billion barrels in 2012 but that is still down more than 4 per cent from 198.4 billion barrels produced in 2007.Anheuser-Busch earlier this year said profits fell nearly 5 per cent in the final quarter of 2012, and it forecast weak first-quarter sales for this year. The company posts results for the current quarter at the end of the month.Shares of AB InBev increased $1.27 to $98.84 by early afternoon. Constellation Brands shares increased 86 cents, nearly 2 per cent, to $48.20. by Sarah Skidmore, The Associated Press Posted Apr 19, 2013 11:16 am MDT Anheuser-Busch InBev, DOJ and other beer makers reach deal on Modelo acquisition
by Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press Posted May 17, 2013 10:58 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Election threat eases as NDP encouraged by Wynne’s response to budget demands TORONTO – Threats of a June election in Ontario eased considerably Friday when the New Democrats said they were “encouraged” by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s response to their series of post-budget demands.Even though the minority Liberal government included a list of NDP ideas in the May 2 budget, party leader Andrea Horwath issued three additional demands that she said were necessary for her support.The two leaders met in the premier’s office Wednesday so Horwath could clearly outline her second set of proposals, and Friday morning Wynne issued a statement agreeing to one, offering a compromise on another and rejecting a third.The Liberals agreed to introduce legislation this fall to create a Financial Accountability Officer to provide advice to MPPs and legislative committees on the province’s finances and the costs of proposed spending initiatives.“This new officer would be independent of the government,” Wynne said in her statement.The premier also said the government would introduce new accountability measures across the health care system, but she stopped short of agreeing to the New Democrats’ demand to give the ombudsman oversight of hospitals.However, Wynne said the Liberals will stick to a plan to allow motorists without passengers pay a toll to drive in car pool lanes, something the NDP condemned as “Lexus lanes” and demanded be dropped from the budget.Horwath issued her own statement Friday in response to the premier, and said she would hold a news conference next week to say if Wynne’s response was good enough to make sure the budget will pass.“As it’s always best to be clear and upfront with Ontarians, I will hold a media availability on Tuesday morning at Queen’s Park to respond.”Horrwath had said earlier she wasn’t drawing any lines in the sand, and her statement Friday did not indicate the NDP would argue that only the ombudsman could make hospitals more accountable.“I am encouraged that Premier Wynne is willing to put in place some of the accountability measures that Ontarians want to see,” said Horwath.“New Democrats have worked hard to ensure the provincial budget is fair, balanced and accountable.”On the one idea Wynne rejected outright, the premier noted there will have to be legislation to create the so-called high-occupancy-toll, or HOT lanes, so that would give the NDP and Progressive Conservatives a chance to outvote the Liberals and kill the idea. The Tories oppose any new tolls on existing highways.They have vowed to defeat the budget in hopes of triggering an election, so the Liberals need the NDP to make sure the fiscal plan gets approved by the legislature.Wynne had earlier expressed frustration with the NDP’s latest series of demands after the government included many of their proposals in the budget, including a promised cut in auto insurance premiums, higher welfare rates, a youth jobs program and more money for home care services.
Toshiba buys Hamilton-based manufacturer of custom electric motors by The Canadian Press Posted May 23, 2013 10:36 am MDT HAMILTON – Toshiba International Corp. has agreed to buy the assets of Elettra Technology, a manufacturer of custom industrial electric motors that was born out of a former Canadian subsidiary of Westinghouse.Financial terms of the deal were not immediately available.Elettra’s current employees will operate the business, which will be renamed Toshiba Industrial Products Canada and relocate its manufacturing to a larger, recently renovated plant in Hamilton, the companies said Thursday.Toshiba International of Houston is an 1,800-employee subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba Corp..Elettra makes industrial motors and generators as well specialized motors for harsh conditions.The Canadian company was founded in 1996 by two former Hamilton-based employees of Westinghouse Motor Co., Carlo Di Pietro and Joe Aiello.Di Pietro, who is ETI’s president, said the deal is good for both companies.“ETI has a history of excellence in one-off specialty electrical motor production which will enhance Toshiba’s product line, while Toshiba has the efficiencies of a large operation that will improve opportunities here,” Di Pietro said in a statement.Mike Ayers, a senior vice-president of Toshiba International and general manager of its industrial division, said that the deal will “better serve both ETI’s and Toshiba’s customers.” AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email
AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email NEW YORK, N.Y. – Where is “30 Rock” when you need it?During seven seasons, this clever NBC comedy made sport of the real-life acquisition of NBC Universal from General Electric by the cable giant Comcast.In the pretend world of “30 Rock,” NBC’s new owner was the make-believe Kabletown, a mammoth so-called “family company” based, like Comcast, in Philadelphia.But now “30 Rock,” which concluded its run last winter, isn’t around to weigh in drolly on the just-announced purchase by Kabletown, er, Comcast of its rival Time Warner Cable.The deal, which with regulatory approval could close by year-end, would have likely provided some laughs for “30 Rock” fans, many of whom might be expected to view an even more gargantuan cable colossus with jaundiced, or at least, wary eyes. It’s a deal that would combine America’s top two cable TV companies for a total of about 30 million subscribers. Subscribers might welcome some comic relief.TV viewers — even those satisfied with their own cable service — traditionally relegate this industry to depths similar with Congress, airline travel and, well, journalism.So don’t look for many high-fives on Twitter, where, in New York City and Philadelphia, “Comcast” and “Time Warner Cable” were trending Thursday with irate and woeful forecasts for what a combined company might bring. One of the operative hashtags: #Monopoly.Monopoly, schmonolopy, insist Comcast and Time Warner Cable.Through the purchase, as Comcast stated in its announcement, “more American consumers will benefit from technological innovations, including a superior video experience, higher broadband speeds, and the fastest in-home Wi-Fi. The transaction also will generate significant cost savings and other efficiencies.”Rrrrreally?The deal could indeed result in a company whose even-greater scale makes it better able to serve its customers, as Comcast promises. Unless, instead, it’s even more dismissive than the current two competitors may seem to their respective subscribers.The deal could put Comcast in an improved position to launch new technical innovations and new program content. Or, thanks to its dominant purchasing power in the marketplace, it could halt bold advances in their tracks by rejecting them from its infrastructure or program lineup.As a souped-up gatekeeper, the combined company could give preferential treatment to its own channels (which include USA, Bravo, MSNBC, E! and many more) and shut out channels that may seem to be competitive with its own portfolio. Or, instead, it might be all the more vigilant in bringing popular channels, whoever owns them, to its customers while granting every channel equal consideration.Consumer advocates have already passed judgment on which way it will go, and they aren’t holding their fire.The combined entity “would become the bully in the schoolyard,” warned Public Knowledge senior staff attorney John Bergmayer in a sweeping salvo, “able to dictate terms to content creators, Internet companies, other communications networks that must interconnect with it, and distributors who must access its content.”The Parents Television Council voiced similar worries. The deal “would create a behemoth of near-unstoppable market power that will invariably be anti-consumer and anti-family,” said PTC president Tim Winter. “Bigger doesn’t mean better, particularly where consumers and families are concerned.”And Free Press CEO Craig Aaron declared that “Americans already hate dealing with the cable guy,” adding: “This deal would be the cable guy on steroids — pumped up, unstoppable and grasping for your wallet.”Such contempt can weigh on the guy in charge, at least on a TV comedy.“30 Rock” concluded with NBC boss Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) landing the plum job as CEO of NBC’s new parent Kabletown. Yet he still felt unhappy and unfulfilled, and resigned to start a vision quest to find his true bliss. (Almost immediately he returned to corporate life, scoring new success at GE with a washing-machine breakthrough.)But if “30 Rock” and its Comcast doppelganger is now gone, at least the Kabletown website can still be visited.“Why Kabletown with a K?” it asks on its home page. “Because K stands for the Kindness we show our customers, the Keen interest we take in their needs….”Real-life cable subscribers, however doubtful, will be hoping the supercharged Komcast, er, Comcast, recognizes all that, too.___Online:http://www.kabletown.com___EDITOR’S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at email@example.com and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier . by Frazier Moore, The Associated Press Posted Feb 13, 2014 2:08 pm MDT Comcast deal stirs memories of ’30 Rock’s” Kabletown – and worry among some cable subscribers FILE – In this July 30, 2008 file photo illustration, a silhouetted coaxial cable is photographed with the Comcast Corp. logo in the background in Philadelphia.Comcast Corp. announced Thursday that it is buying Time Warner Cable Inc. for $45.2 billion in stock. The deal combines two of the nation’s top pay TV and Internet service companies and makes Comcast, which also owns NBCUniversal, a dominant force in both creating and delivering entertainment to U.S. homes. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)
TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed sharply higher amid expectations that China will move to counter its economic slowdown, but an earnings report from Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd. failed to inspire investors.The S&P/TSX composite index jumped 81.88 points to 14,260.72. The Canadian dollar fell 0.23 of a cent to 90.42 cents US.BlackBerry CEO John Chen says he is focused on growing the struggling smartphone company and has no intention of moving its main operations outside Canada.The Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry, which has been restructuring and cutting costs in the last year, posted a fourth-quarter loss of US$423 million or 80 cents per share diluted in its latest quarter. This compared with a profit of $98 million or 19 cents per diluted share a year ago.However, excluding one-time items, BlackBerry (TSX:BB) said it had an adjusted loss from continuing operations of $42 million or eight cents per share.Analysts, on average, had expected a loss of 55 cents per share, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.Shares in BlackBerry rose as much as six per cent in early trading, but then reversed course and closed down more than six per cent, or 65 cents, at $9.31.Meanwhile, Wall Street was positive as the Dow Jones industrials gained 58.83 points to 16,323.06, the Nasdaq rose 4.53 points to 4,155.76 and the S&P 500 index added 8.58 points to 1,857.62.Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist with TD Waterhouse, said many analysts expect 2014 to be “the year of convergence” between the TSX and the New York markets, as resource stocks see a bit of a lift.“We’re having a bit of a pop to the upside,” he said. “There’s not a lot of strong storylines, but it just reflects a little bit of a bounce from recent weakness, more than anything else.”Most sectors on the Toronto Stock Exchange were in the black, with gold and metals and mining stocks emerging as the leading advancers.The gold contract took back 50 cents to US$1,294.30 an ounce, while oil gained 39 cents to US$101.67 a barrel. May copper contract gained five cents to US$3.04 a pound.Overseas, expectations grew that China would inject more stimulus into its economy after seeing growth slow to its weakest level since the financial crisis five years ago.China has set a target of 7.5 per cent economic growth this year but has said it is more concerned about ensuring sufficient new jobs are created than precisely meeting the GDP figure.In the U.S., the latest figures showed that the economy there is progressing at a moderate pace.The U.S. Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 0.3 per cent in February following a 0.2 per cent rise in January, helped by a surge in spending on utility bills. However, spending on durable goods such as autos dropped.Another report found that consumer sentiment slipped in March from the previous month, as Americans said they were less likely to buy cars and homes because of slightly higher interest rates.The University of Michigan says its consumer sentiment index dipped to 80 in March from 81.6 in February.That’s still about five points higher than last fall, when sentiment fell during the government shutdown. The index was 82.5 in December, leaving economists to conclude that the figures suggest confidence didn’t take that big of a hit during the harsh winter. by Linda Nguyen, The Canadian Press Posted Mar 28, 2014 7:46 am MDT Toronto, Wall Street end the week higher as BlackBerry shares fall on earnings AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email
by Geir Moulson, The Associated Press Posted Jul 31, 2014 2:01 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email BERLIN – Sports equipment maker Adidas lowered its full-year profit target on Thursday, citing among other things increasing risk in the Russian market amid mounting political tensions over Ukraine.Russia’s economy and currency have weakened this year due to uncertainty over the potential damage from Western sanctions. The U.S. and European Union this week approved a new round of tougher penalties aimed at hurting Russia’s economy, punishment for alleged Russian support for Ukrainian rebels.“The recent trend change in the Russian ruble as well as increasing risks to consumer sentiment and consumer spending from current tensions in the region point to higher risks to the short-term profitability contribution from Russia” and other former Soviet republics, Adidas said in a statement.Adidas — a sponsor of the World Cup, which is to be held in Russia in 2018 — said it has decided to “significantly reduce” its store opening plan in the region for this year and next, and to increase the number of store closures. It said it nevertheless “remains very encouraged by increasing brand momentum” for both the Adidas and Reebok brands.Shares in the company plummeted 12.1 per cent in Frankfurt trading to 61.63 euros.Adidas AG, based in Herzogenaurach, Germany, said it now expects net profit of about 650 million euros ($870 million) this year, down from its previous forecast of between 830 and 930 million euros. It forecast that sales will grow at a “mid- to high-single digit” rate in currency-neutral terms, after previously saying they would grow at a high-single digit rate.Tensions over Russia weren’t the only trigger for the profit warning. Adidas also cited “poor retail sentiment and the slow liquidation of old inventory” worldwide in the golf business. It said it would launch a restructuring program at its TaylorMade golf unit, cutting costs “to match lower expectations for the golf industry’s development.”Adidas also said that, following a strong performance at this year’s World Cup and “improving momentum” at its main brands, it would step up marketing investments over the next 18 months, particularly in markets such as North America and Western Europe. Adidas lowers 2014 profit target, citing risks in Russian market and weakness in golf sector
NDP leader calls on Harper to defend supply management ‘in its entirety’ OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper should defend supply management “in its entirety” during negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, says NDP leader Tom Mulcair.Harper’s most recent remarks on the trade talks have created uncertainty for Canadian egg, poultry and dairy producers, Mulcair writes in a letter to the prime minister.Supply management relies on marketing boards to control domestic production of eggs, milk, cheese and poultry and high import tariffs to protect against foreign producers.“I am urging you to commit to defending supply management in its entirety and reassure Canadians that it will be protected in all future negotiations,” Mulcair writes in the letter, sent late last week.“Concessions in supply management sectors could have profoundly negative effects on our regional economies.”Mulcair also stressed the importance of the policy in his home province.“In Quebec alone, nearly 7,000 family farms exist and prosper thanks to supply management, which also accounts for 92,000 jobs and 43 per cent of total agricultural revenue.”Last Thursday, Harper said Canada is “working to protect” the supply management system while it participates in the trade talks.“I believe these negotiations are going to establish what will become the basis of the international trading network in the Asia Pacific. It is essential in my view that Canada be part of that — that the Canadian economy be part of that,” Harper said.“At the same time, we are working to protect our system of supply management and our farmers in other sectors.”Max Moncaster, a spokesman for Trade Minister Ed Fast, denied media reports from last week that said the government was prepared to make concessions on supply management.“Our government is committed to defending our system of supply management,” he said in a statement.“Unlike Thomas Mulcair, who has consistently opposed Canada’s free trade agreements and advocated against Canada’s economic interests on the world stage, our government will continue to promote Canadian trade interests across all sectors of our economy, including supply management.”The TPP is currently being negotiated by 12 countries including Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.The government says TPP countries represent 792 million people and a combined GDP of $28.1 trillion, which is about 40 per cent of the global economy.One of the central complaints from opposition parties has been the secrecy surrounding the talks, which have gone on behind closed doors.The government has also faced strong opposition from dairy and poultry farmers who want supply management preserved.Some groups, including the Dairy Farmers of Canada, have expressed concerns about how the trade deal could increase access to the Canadian dairy market.In a 2014 report, the Conference Board of Canada said supply management “effectively transfers resources from poorer Canadians to wealthier Canadians” and called for the policy to be dismantled or dramatically retooled. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks at a rally in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Mulcair is urging Stephen Harper to defend Canada’s supply management system “in its entirety” in the course of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang by Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press Posted Jun 29, 2015 2:22 pm MDT Last Updated Jun 29, 2015 at 5:08 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email
by Linda Nguyen, The Canadian Press Posted Apr 5, 2016 9:36 am MDT Last Updated Apr 5, 2016 at 4:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email North American stock markets, loonie, head lower amid grim world outlook TORONTO – Canada’s biggest stock market pulled back for the fourth straight day Tuesday as investors question whether they can continue to shrug off signs of tepid global growth.Toronto’s S&P/TSX composite index declined 31.49 points to 13,304.66, with the consumer staples and utilities sectors among the biggest losers.Precious and base metals miners were the biggest gainers on the resource-heavy market, with the gold sector up nearly four per cent.“The markets are being driven by the macro stuff,” said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Global Investment.“They realize there is more downside here and they have to decide if they want to take on the risk — and maybe realizing that it’s not worth it.”Adatia said global economic factors may be showing signs of improvement, but it’s not enough to support a bullish outlook on equities.“Right now, people are going to say, ‘I’m going to wait until some of this stuff passes by,’” he said.The negative sentiment ran through currency markets, as the Canadian dollar lost half a cent. It ended the day 0.49 of a U.S. cent lower at 75.90 cents US.The downward pressure came on the same day the Bank of Canada issued a positive take on the country’s ability to ride out any economic shocks from China, its second-largest trading partner.Senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins said if growth in China’s economy comes in one percentage point lower than projections — then Canadian growth would slip just one-tenth of a percentage point. A effect of a similar decline in the U.S. would be six times greater, she said.The comments come on the back of worse-than-expected trade figures.Statistics Canada reported that the country’s trade deficit grew to $1.9 billion in February. Economists had expected a deficit of $900 million, according to Thomson Reuters.Meanwhile, bearish comments from the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, helped push U.S. indexes further into the red.She noted that while the world economy isn’t in a crisis, slow growth risks becoming ingrained as a “new mediocre” and that the outlook the next six months has weakened.The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 133.68 points to 17,603.32, while the broader S&P 500 slid 20.96 points to 2,0458.17 and the Nasdaq composite fell 47.86 points to 4,843.93.In commodities, the May contract for benchmark North American crude added 19 cents to US$35.89 a barrel, recouping some of the losses from two days.May natural gas plunged four cents to US$1.94 per mmBtu, while May copper was unchanged at US$2.14 a pound. June gold rebounded $10.30 to US$1,229.60 a troy ounce.Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.
by Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press Posted Aug 30, 2016 11:59 pm MDT Last Updated Aug 31, 2016 at 5:11 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chats with the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang, during a signing ceremony for several tentative agreements in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, August 31, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld Trudeau opens Canada’s door wider to China and exploratory talks on free trade BEIJING, China – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has brought Canada closer to China after agreeing with the Chinese premier to deepen the countries’ relationships — and explore a possible free trade deal.After meeting with Trudeau, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told reporters through a translator that Canada and China will launch a feasibility study on an eventual free-trade deal.A senior Canadian official later said the two counties have ongoing technical discussions on free trade, but stressed that there are no negotiations under way at this point.“This year marks 45 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and China,” Trudeau said as he stood beside Li in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, which overlooks Tiananmen Square.“My father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, played an important role in establishing a partnership between our two countries when he was prime minister. So, I’m very happy to be extending that effort now.”The countries also agreed to hold annual meetings between the Chinese premier and the Canadian prime minister on a range of issues, including national security and the rule of law.Trudeau also said the two sides will take steps to improve trade and investment, boost tourism, expand cultural exchanges and address climate change.“With respect for cultural diversity, I think it is natural for us to understand that our two countries may have differences, on some issues this is only natural,” Li said.“But I also believe that we have far greater common interests between us and on that basis there’s every reason for us to have candid dialogue about differences and work together for proper settlements of our differences.”Asked if he had raised human rights concerns and the case of a jailed Canadian, Trudeau said the foundation of a good relationship is the ability to be frank and open about issues that can be worked on together.He added that he’s “highlighted a number of consular cases” every time he’s had the opportunity to sit down with Chinese leaders.Those cases include Kevin Garratt, a Canadian imprisoned for more than two years in China on espionage charges.Trudeau himself has indicated in the past that there’s no evidence to support the accusations against Garratt. The prime minister did not say what China has told him about Garratt’s case.Li insisted through a translator that China is a country of the rule of law. He said judicial authorities will handle cases in strict accordance with the law. He added that individuals will be treated in a “humanitarian way.”In response, the Garratt family said in a statement through their lawyer that they were “extremely frustrated” by a lack of progress in securing his release and enabling him to obtain “critically-needed medical treatment.”“Kevin should be released to allow the two countries to move forward to develop stronger ties and co-operation on many levels,” the statement said.China earlier announced an extension to its Thursday deadline to enforce rules on Canadian canola shipments so a long-term deal could be reached.The change threatened to have a negative effect on Canada’s multibillion-dollar canola exports to China.Later Wednesday, Trudeau met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.Trudeau introduced Xi to Canadian ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques and three of his cabinet ministers: International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion.“I truly appreciate the time you’re taking to meet with me,” said Trudeau, who was seated directly opposite Xi in a meeting room.“I think it’s an indication that indeed the strong relationship between Canada and China continues to grow stronger. This meeting and this visit has been extremely effective in deepening already the close friendship between our countries.”— With files from The Associated Press