Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday he has asked the United States to hold off on any final trade agreement with China until two Canadians detained in China have been released.
Beijing detained former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor last December in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei. The daughter of Huawei’s founder was arrested last December at the request of US authorities who want her on fraud charges.
In an interview with the French-language TV network TVA that aired on Thursday, Trudeau said Canada has asked the Trump administration to use ongoing trade talks with China as leverage in securing the release of the two Canadians.
“We’ve said that the United States should not sign a final and complete agreement with China that does not settle the question of Meng Wanzhou and the two Canadians,” Trudeau said in translated remarks.
No evidence has been provided in the Kovrig and Spavor cases and they have not been allowed access to family members or lawyers while in Chinese custody.
China and the US are embroiled in a trade war that has at times roiled global financial markets. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Meng is not a bargaining chip in US-China trade talks.
Meng is accused of lying to banks about the company’s dealing with Iran in violation of US trade sanctions. She is out on bail in Vancouver and living in her multimillion-dollar mansion awaiting extradition proceedings.
Meng’s detention severely damaged Beijing’s relations with Ottawa. China has stopped importing certain Canadian products like canola, and it also re-sentenced a convicted Canadian drug smuggler to death after the Meng arrest as part of an apparent campaign of intimidation and retribution against Canada.
China has often retaliated against foreign governments and corporations in diplomatic disputes.