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China suspends Canadian beef, pork imports as tensions rise

A customer (L) buys meat at a market in Shenyang in China's northeastern Liaoning province on June 12, 2019. Image copyright Getty Images

China has suspended beef and pork imports from Canada, adding to tensions between the two countries.

The move comes after Chinese authorities found a banned feed additive in a batch of pork products exported from Canada to China.

An investigation found that up to 188 health certificates attached to pork exports to China had been forged.

China urged Canada to take "effective measures" to ensure the safety of food sold to the Asian country.

China had "immediately suspended the import of pork products from the relevant enterprises" after finding "ractopamine residues" in a batch of goods sent from Canada, a statement from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said.

"In order to protect the safety of Chinese consumers, China has taken urgent preventive measures and requested the Canadian government to suspend the issuance of certificates for meat exported to China since 25 June," the statement said.

"We hope the Canadian side would attach great importance to this incident... and take effective measures to ensure the safety of food exported to China in a more responsible manner."

Canada is investigating whether tainted pork shipped along with false health certificates to China actually came from domestic producers.

"They're inauthentic certificates that are at play here and we're taking it very seriously," Canada's international trade minister Jim Carr said on Wednesday.

"Somebody is trying to use the Canadian brand to move product into the Chinese market."

China bought C$310m (£186; $236) worth of pork - the Asian nation is the third-largest export market for Canadian pork - and C$63m ($48m; £38m) worth of Canadian beef and veal between January and April 2019, according to trade statistics.

Earlier this year, China also blocked imports of Canadian canola seed, citing quality concerns that have been disputed by Canada's food inspection agency.

Soured relations

The move comes as political tensions between China and Canada have grown in recent months following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

Ms Meng is the Chinese firm's chief financial officer and its founder's daughter.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries deteriorated after Ms Meng was arrested in December for allegedly breaking US sanctions on Iran. She faces extradition to the US.

Two Canadian citizens are thought to have been detained in China in retaliation for the arrest.

Ms Meng meanwhile has filed a civil claim against Canada's government, border agency and police for "serious breaches" of her civil rights.

The suspension of pork imports also comes as China struggles to contain African swine fever, an incurable pig virus, which has spread rapidly since last year.

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