July 13 (UPI) -- China, a country with one of the largest appetites for oil in the world, wants to start talks with Canada about a free-trade deal, the country's president said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Beijing with David Johnston, the representative of the Canadian monarchy, to discuss an evolving partnership. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that the Chinese president called for the "launch negotiations on a free trade agreement at an early date."
China is the second largest economy in the world, behind the United States. Economists at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said Chinese demand is robust, in large part because of demand from the transportation and industrial sectors.
Total Chinese oil demand should increase 2.6 percent from last year, compared with 0.7 percent growth from the United States.
"China will continue to grow at a slightly lower rate of 6.2 percent in 2018, compared with 6.6 percent in 2017," OPEC economists wrote in their monthly report for July. "This still represents a considerable level of expansion, as the country continues to shift its growth drivers from exports and investments to domestic consumption.
Imports to China in May increased nearly 15 percent from last year.
Canada, meanwhile, has reached out to Asian economies in an effort to diversify an economy that depends heavily on trade with the United States. In May, the Canadian government issued a public call to weigh in on the possibilities of reaching a free-trade agreement with China as the Central Bank of Canada warned that some of the protectionist policies from U.S. President Donald Trump left many economists and corporations guessing.
Canada is largely landlocked and relies almost entirely on the United States as its export destination for oil, a primary export commodity.