Canada open to tweaking rules to spur China investment: government MP

September 4, 2016 12:55 PM EDT

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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's Liberal government is open to the idea of fostering better trade ties with China by easing foreign investment restrictions, a senior legislator said on a national political talk show on Sunday.

"It's something we would consider amongst a number of different things," David Lametti, parliamentary secretary to International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, said on CTV's "Question Period."

Canada's former Conservative government clamped down on takeover bids for energy companies by foreign state-owned enterprises. The restriction came after China's CNOOC Ltd <0883.HK> made a bid for Calgary-based Nexen in 2012, prompting fears of external control of the country's oil reserves.

Lametti said the government has not formally explored changing the rules, but is open to all proposals that might enhance trade.

He did not give details or a timeline but said Canada needs to rebuild its relationship with China before starting to consider trade matters.

A spokeswoman from Global Affairs Canada, a federal department overseeing international trade, said only that Lametti also said his remarks do not mean the government has committed to changing the rules.

She referred further questions to another federal department, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNOOC's bid for Nexen had prompted unrest among legislators in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party.

While it was approved, the Canadian government then placed heavy restrictions on foreign investment, saying takeover bids will in the future be approved only on an "exceptional basis."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an official visit to China last week, seeking deeper ties with the country. His government announced the signing of 56 deals with China worth more than C$1.2 billion ($915 million).

China, the world's second-largest economy, has tried to sell Trudeau on a free trade treaty similar to pacts China has sealed with Australia and New Zealand.

(Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Bill Trott)



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