China's ambassador to Canada said in an interview published Saturday that the two countries should move speedily to sign a free-trade agreement if bilateral business is to flourish.
"That's why we need to talk with the Canadian side about an FTA. It's time to open each other's markets," Ambassador Zhang Junsai was quoted by The Globe and Mail newspaper as saying.
"It's high time to do the exploratory work on the possibility of a free-trade agreement. Under a free-trade agreement, there will be more and more trade and investment," he said.
Chinese investment in Canada has increased 36-fold in 10 years, reaching $10.7 billion at the end of 2011, while Canadian investment in China topped $8.3 billion, according to government figures.
China is currently Canada's second-largest trading partner while Ottawa is 13th among Beijing's business partners.
Over the last decade, Canada has increased sales of machinery and equipment to China and there are further opportunities for increased trade in agriculture and mining.
But Canadian concerns about intellectual property protection, standards and certification requirements, and remaining tariffs are hindering growth in bilateral trade.
In his remarks, Zhang also said Canada should decide whether or not to approve China-based energy giant CNOOC's bid for Canadian oil firm Nexen Inc on economic grounds alone.
"Business is business. It should not be politicized," he said, alluding to possible concerns over China's rights record or domestic politics.
"If we politicize all this, then we can't do business," Zhang told the newspaper.