By BETH DUFF-BROWN
Associated Press Writer
OTTAWA (AP) -- China's president held talks with Canada's prime minister Friday as both countries seek to expand oil and energy ties and promote their joint role in safeguarding the peace and development of the Pacific Rim.
President Hu Jintao, making his first visit to North America since taking office nearly three years ago, is only the third Chinese leader to visit Canada and the first in eight years.
"The two economies are highly complementary for one another and their vast potentials are mutually beneficial," Hu said Thursday at a welcoming ceremony at Rideau Hall, the official residence of Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.
Hu spoke of the shared responsibility of Canada and China to protect the Pacific Rim.
"China and Canada shoulder important responsibilities in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development," Hu said through an interpreter.
He made no comments Friday but planned to make a statement after his meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin.
China is Canada's second-largest trading partner, after the United States, and Ottawa and Beijing conducted $30 billion in trade last year. With the world's fastest growing economy and rapid urbanization, the Chinese want oil and natural resources from Canada.
Hu, 62, attended a state dinner with Martin, several Cabinet ministers and members of his entourage. Although diplomatic ties with Beijing were only established 35 years ago, Clarkson, herself of Chinese descent, stressed that relations went back to the railroad workers of the 19th century and the economic migrants of the 20th.
There are more than 1 million ethnic Chinese in Canada, the largest visible minority among its 33 million people.
Clarkson made only an oblique reference to China's checkered human rights record by stressing the need for mutual understanding.
"It is simply wrong for anyone, however powerful, or any institution, however wealthy or dominant, to interfere with one people's understanding of another," she said.
Hu took power in 2003, and human rights activists say Beijing has done little to lift its iron heel from a closed society increasingly riven by class divides.
Martin pledged to make human rights a top priority in Friday's talks.
Hu and his entourage will be wooing investors and seeking inroads into North America's resource sector -- particularly energy, minerals and lumber -- while trying to reassure the West about China's looming superpower status.
Hu postponed a visit to the United States after President Bush canceled a Wednesday meeting with the Chinese leader, citing Hurricane Katrina. The two intend to meet next week on the sidelines of a U.N. summit in New York.
About 200 followers of Falun Gong dressed in bright red and yellow jackets stood in front of Parliament Hill meditating and chanting slogans. Beijing has labeled Falun Gong an "evil cult" and thousands of its followers have been jailed.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)