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This page contains information about Canada’s Global Commerce Strategy (2007-2013). To learn about Canada’s new trade plan, visit Global Markets Action Plan.

China, People’s Republic of

PDF (161 KB)Footnote * | Market Reports

Beijing, China

As the world’s second largest economy, and an average yearly GDP growth of about 10 percent since 1980, China’s presence as a commercial force is felt around the world. Following several years of double-digit growth, economic expansion in China throughout 2008 was hampered by monetary policy tightening and the collapse of the stock market. This domestic slowdown was exacerbated by the financial turmoil that engulfed major industrialized economies, dramatically reducing demand for Chinese exports while slowing the pace of foreign direct investment. China’s real GDP growth sank to 6.2% in the first quarter of 2009, down from 10.6% a year earlier. However, following strong intervention from the Chinese government, China’s economy achieved an overall growth rate of 8.7% in 2009, followed by 12% in the first quarter of 2010. China has now recovered completely from the effects of the recession.

China took early and decisive action to counteract the effects of the global downturn, including a massive fiscal stimulus program. In November 2008, Beijing announced a wide-ranging RMB 4 trillion (CAD$700 billion) stimulus package. The package, consistent with President Hu’s stated objective of creating a “harmonious society”, combined economic growth (notably infrastructure development) with an emphasis on low income groups, regional agricultural development, pollution control and technological upgrades.

An important manufacturing centre for both Asian and global supply chains, the country is importing large amounts of machinery, oil, chemicals, vehicles and raw materials to feed its rapidly expanding industries. Its infrastructure needs are ballooning, generating tremendous opportunities in engineering, transportation and environmental technologies. Furthermore, China is an increasingly important source of investment capital with sharply rising outward direct investment flows that reached USD $48.0 billion in 2009. With a population of 1.3 billion, rising income levels, and a growing middle class, China’s potential as a consumer market is phenomenal. China is also a vast and complex country where conducting business can be difficult. Obtaining reliable information is a challenge, as is forging the right connections. The financial and taxation aspects of doing business there are intricate. Key challenges include import barriers, limitations on foreign service providers, inadequate intellectual property rights enforcement, subsidy practices and low transparency in contracting processes.

Commercial Relations, 2009

  • China continues to be Canada’s second largest merchandise trading partner after the United States. Two-way merchandise trade amounted to $50.8 billion in 2009, a 4.3 percent decline over 2008 levels.
  • In 2009, Canadian merchandise exports to China totaled $11.2 billion, a 6.6 percent increase from 2008, making China Canada’s third largest export market.
  • Furthermore, China continues to be Canada’s second largest source of imported merchandise.
  • While a substantial number of Canadian firms have invested in China, Canadian Direct Investments (CDIA) to China stood at $3.3 billion in 2009 and accounted for less than 1 percent of the total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into China.

Market Opportunities

The Government of Canada has identified China as a GCS priority market—based on extensive consultation with government, academic and Canadian business and industry representatives — and has developed a comprehensive Market Plan that identifies the following key sectors as offering clear opportunities well suited to Canadian capabilities and interests in the market:

  • Agriculture, Food and Beverages: Driven by growing consumption and resource constraints, China is expected to become the world’s largest importer of agri-food by 2015-2020. Canadian exports of agriculture, food and beverages to China rose 56 percent last year to reach almost $2.6 billion in 2009, generating a trade surplus of $1.6 billion.
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT): China is a world leader in both imports and exports of ICT products and services. Having made ICT industry growth a national priority China has been experiencing rapid increases in the use of cell phones and Internet users.
  • Automotive: China overtook the United States as the world’s largest car market in 2009, selling close to 13.6 million vehicles against the US’s 10.4 million. Canada’s total vehicle exports to China reached USD$49 million in 2009 (Source: J.D. Power & Associates; World Trade Atlas.)
  • Aerospace: It is expected that 600 new aircraft will be added to China's fleet in the next five years and Chinese demand for new aircraft could reach more than 3,800 over the next twenty years (Source: Boeing, Airbus.)
  • Mining and Related Equipment and Services: China is a large consumer and producer of metallurgical minerals. Strong economic growth is driving the development of China’s mining industry, which is generating large demand for mining technologies, services and equipment and for mineral products.
  • Life Sciences: China’s aging population, expanding health insurance, strong government support and increasing health consciousness is driving growth in life sciences. Opportunities exist for Canadian firms in joint research and development (R&D) projects, manufacturing, clinical trials, financing and distribution.

Cleantech is increasingly becoming an important sector for the Chinese economy. Chinese companies are actively seeking partners to help develop their own technology and expertise and to find innovative solutions to some of the challenges created by the rapid economic growth of the past 30 years. Specifically, significant opportunities exist for Canadian technology companies involved in municipal and industry wastewater treatment technology.

Canada-China Commercial Relations, 2005-2009

Text Alternative: Canada-China Commercial Relations
Canada-China Commercial Relations, 2005-2009
 Canadian Merchandise ExportsCanadian Merchandise ImportsCanadian Direct Investment Abroad (CDIA)Foreign Direct Investment in Canada (FDI)

Government Leadership and Support

An increasing number of exchanges and visits at the ministerial and deputy ministerial-level have recently reinforced Canada’s and China’s commitment to advancing the bilateral relationship and strengthening commercial ties. Most notable, was the Prime Minister’s visit to China in December 2009 and President Hu’s visit to Canada in June 2010.

October 13, 2010, marks the date of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China. Canada was among the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with China, in 1970. In jointly celebrating this anniversary with China, we hope to enhance the bilateral relationship and increase business opportunities for Canadians in China by highlighting the longevity of our relationship and by increasing Canada’s visibility as a dynamic and innovative country.

Opportunities such as Canada’s involvement in the 2010 World Exposition in Shanghai, will serve to heighten the awareness of Canadian business expertise and competitiveness in and throughout the Chinese market. China’s theme for Expo 2010 is “Better City, Better Life.”

The Government of Canada will continue to monitor and influence Chinese commercial policies and regulations in favour of Canadian interests. Bilateral agreements on science and technology and a new memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a working group on environmental protection and energy conservation will help open new doors for Canadian companies, as will ongoing work to secure Canada’s place as an important gateway for Asia Pacific commerce.

Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service expanded its presence in China with the addition of new trade offices in Chengdu, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shenyang, Shenzhen and Wuhan and expanded resources in other cities. The offices will further support Canadian interests and develop opportunities for Canadian business in these emerging business centres.

Canadian Trade Commissioners will continue to actively promote Canadian commercial capabilities throughout China, while providing Canadian companies with the market intelligence, connections and support they need to capitalize on specific opportunities.

Market Access

Canada has a number of bilateral trade and investment policy instruments in place that are helping to facilitate and support Canadian commercial engagement in the region:


  • Air Services Agreement


  • Canada-China Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation


  • Aerospace Collaboration Agreement
  • Memorandum of Understanding on Trade Logistics Cooperation


  • Cooperative Agreement with China allowing for staged access of Canadian beef and tallow into the Chinese market
  • Canada-China Approved Destination Status designation (ADS)
  • Canada-China Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of a Working Group on Environmental Protection and Energy Conservation

Unless otherwise stated, all data is for 2009 and expressed in Canadian dollars. All data based on latest available national statistics drawn from a variety of sources, including Statistics Canada, Export Development Canada, Bank of Canada, IMF WEO and UNCTAD.

For further information, visit the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website or contact the Trade Commissioner Service at 1-888-306-9991.


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Fast Facts

  • Capital: Beijing
  • Population: 1.3 billion
  • Total Area: 9,600,000 km²
  • Language(s): Mandarin, Cantonese, others
  • Type of Government: One-party socialist republic
  • GDP: $5.6 trillion
  • GDP per Capita: $4,211
  • Main Export Destinations: United States, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Germany
  • Main Import Sources: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, United States and Germany
  • Main Imports: Electrical and electronic equipment, Machinery, Knit apparel, Woven apparel, Furniture and bedding, Scientific and precision instruments
  • Main Exports: Electrical and electronic equipment, Machinery, Mineral fuels and oils, Mineral ores, Scientific and precision instruments
  • Main Canadian Exports (billions): Oilseeds ($1.6), Wood pulp ($1.5), Mineral ores ($1.4), Machinery ($0.9), Mineral fuels and oils ($0.9)
  • Main Canadian Imports (billions): Electrical and electronic equipment and machinery ($8.5), Machinery ($7.1), Toys and sports equipment ($3.1), Furniture and bedding ($2.5), Woven apparel ($2.1)
  • Currency: C$1=5.98 renminbi (Rmb)

The Canada Trade Commissioner Service