OTTAWA — A committee of Canadian MPs is seeking budget approval to make a trade trip to Taiwan this fall despite fears that the plan risks escalating tensions with China.
The House of Commons international trade committee is planning to visit Taiwan and Singapore, although the Commons has not yet approved the committee's budget for the trip.
New Democrat MP and committee member Brian Masse says Canadians "must support other democracies that have fought for their rights and freedoms."
"A fall trip across Asia to improve trade relationships, which would include a visit to Taiwan, has been in discussion at the standing committee on international trade," Masse said.
"Although the trip is still in the planning stages, the NDP is very supportive of developing stronger Canada-Taiwan relations and taking this opportunity to improve our trade relationship with Taiwan.”
Conservative MP and committee vice-chair Randy Hoback said MPs on a Canada-Taiwan parliamentary "friendship group" used to go to Taiwan around twice a year before COVID-19 restricted travel.
Hoback has previously visited the island, which is located around 100 miles off the coast of southeastern China, with the group.
But the Tory MP said he would want to consult Global Affairs Canada before making the trip now. "There's no intent on my part to antagonize China," he said.
Earlier this month, China condemned a trip to Taiwan by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
China regards the island of Taiwan as its territory and Beijing imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation to her visit and held military drills around Taiwan.
During Pelosi's visit, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly urged China to de-escalate tensions, saying legislators often make international visits and they should not be used to justify China's decision to stage military drills.
Emily Williams, a spokeswoman for Joly, said Wednesday that "Parliamentary associations and friendship groups travel regularly and we respect their independence.”
“Canada continues to have strong and growing trade and people-to-people ties with Taiwan," she said. "As stated in the G7 foreign ministers’ statement on the Taiwan Strait, Canada is committed to maintaining the rules that have ensured peace and stability for decades, including across the Indo-Pacific region."
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada said it would give the Parliamentary committee "full support" for a visit that would "facilitate further dialogues" on issues including trade and investment, education and technology.
"By visiting Taiwan and connecting with Taiwanese legislators, Canadian Senators and MPs will gain a better understanding of Taiwan’s development, its role in the region, cross-Strait relations and other latest political and economic developments," a spokeswoman said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.
Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press