Canada parliament votes for committee to probe China relations in defeat for Trudeau

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a meeting with Conservative Party leader and Leader of the Official Opposition Andrew Scheer on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario Canada November 12, 2019. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian legislators on Tuesday delivered Prime Minister Justin Trudeau his first parliamentary defeat since his re-election by approving the creation of a special committee to examine relations with China, which is locked in a dispute with Ottawa.

Trudeau’s Liberals lost their parliamentary majority in an October election. He must now rely on opposition legislators to govern.

Canada-China ties turned icy a year ago after Vancouver police detained Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. arrest warrant. Shortly afterwards, China picked up two Canadian citizens who now face state security charges, and it also blocked imports of canola seed.

The right-leaning Conservative Party, which accuses Trudeau of being too soft with China, proposed setting up the 12-person committee, which will conduct hearings to review all aspects of Canada’s relations with China. It is due to meet for the first time on Jan 20.

“This committee will help shed light on Justin Trudeau’s failures to stand up for Canadian interests with respect to Beijing,” Conservative foreign affairs spokesman Erin O’Toole said in a statement.

Trudeau has stressed the need not to escalate the dispute with China. The Liberals said existing committees already deal with the China relationship.

The Conservatives say Trudeau should scrap a C$250 million ($188 million) investment in the Chinese-owned Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. They also oppose the use of Huawei technology for construction of an ultra-fast 5G wireless network.

Legislators voted by 171 to 148 to create the committee. Trudeau’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman