© The Associated Press/The Canadian Press/Sean KilpatrickPrime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a toast with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Beijing, Dec. 3
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reached agreements with China to facilitate uranium exports and air travel as part of efforts to deepen ties.

Harper and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced a pact that will give Canadian uranium producers more access to China's civilian nuclear power industry, according to a joint statement released by Harper's office. Canada is home to the world's largest uranium producer, Cameco Corp. No details of the agreement were provided.

"This agreement will help Canadian uranium companies to substantially increase exports to China, the world's fastest growing market for these products," Harper said in a statement. "It will generate jobs here at home while contributing to the use of clean reliable energy in China."

Harper, who is on a four-day visit to China, is seeking to attract Chinese investment in Canada's natural resources and sell more energy to Asia, while winning business in China for Canadian companies. The two countries announced an investment protection pact Feb. 8.

"I think Canada-China relations are continuing along a very positive route," Harper said after meeting President Hu Jintao yesterday. "We are reaching a new level."

Wen, who met Harper in Beijing on Feb. 8, called for discussions on a possible free trade agreement, the Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday. He said China is "ready to expand imports of energy and resource products from Canada" and boost cooperation in areas including renewable energy and the peaceful use of nuclear power, according to Xinhua.

Deals Signed

Chinese companies signed about $3 billion of deals with their Canadian counterparts in aviation, finance, rail transit mining, telecommunications, environmental protection, education and drugs, Xinhua said, without providing details. Harper met Vice Premier Li Keqiang briefly before the fifth China-Canadian Business Forum, at which the deals were signed, it said.

The two countries will seek "exploratory discussions" to deepen economic and trade ties after a joint working group study is completed in March, according to yesterday's statement.

China, the world's biggest energy user, is seeking to secure uranium supplies as it builds additional reactors. There are 434 operable reactors around the world and 61 under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association. China is building 26, plans to construct another 51 and has proposed 120 others, according to the association.

Cameco Corp. Chief Executive Tim Gitzel was part of Harper's delegation on the China trip. He said yesterday's pact will allow the company to move ahead with supply agreements signed in 2010 to sell about 52 million pounds of uranium for Chinese reactors, deals worth as much as $3 billion.

'Opens the Door'

"We couldn't deliver Canadian uranium here until this agreement was signed so it opens the door for us to do that," Gitzel said.

In a separate interview with Bloomberg, Gitzel said demand for uranium may grow by about 3 percent a year in the next few years. China is showing "strong growth" in nuclear-reactor construction, he said.

The two countries yesterday also announced an agreement to reduce restrictions on flight travel that will allow more flexibility in pricing and let China Southern Airlines Co. ship freight to the U.S. through Canada, according to the statement. Canada and China also agreed to update their tax treaty to reduce rates of withholding taxes that apply to cross-border payments and eliminate double taxation for individuals and companies.

"Canada has the resources, technological sophistication, and geo-strategic positioning to complement China's economic growth strategy," Harper told a business audience in Beijing after meeting Li and Hu. "And China's growth, in turn, complements our determination to diversify our export markets."

China also pledged to work with Canada to resolve agriculture market access issues.