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Under Canada’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council, China is finally granted Permanent Observer Status

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(CRC)—For the first time since the founding conference of the international council in Ottawa in 1996, Asian countries have been granted observer status in the circumpolar organization. The countries which have acceded to this special status on May 15 are China, India, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.

Italy was also allowed to join with the same status but not the European Union whose bid was blocked by the Council’s new chairman, Canada’s Leona Aglukkaq, in light of Canadian concern over European protests against seal hunting and the EU ban on the import of seal products.

Xinhua press agency reports that the “move drew praise from the Inuit Tapirit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization in Canada. Its president Terry Audla said the organization was provided ‘an opportunity to educate EU members on the sustainable hunting practices of Canadian Inuit, lessons sorely needed for a group who has clearly based past decisions on political pressures from animal rights groups rather than on more reasoned options and objective scientific facts.’ "

Greenpeace was also denied observer status for the two years that Minister Aglukkaq will chair the Council.

Xinhua reports that “China Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Wednesday that China appreciates and welcomes the Arctic Council’s decision to grant permanent observer status to China. ‘China has all along supported the purpose and objective of the Arctic Council,’ Hong said in a written statement.

“…The council’s decision will enhance the communication and cooperation between China and relevant parties on Arctic affairs, and it will allow China to make contributions to the council’s work and promote peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic region, he said.”

The Committee for the Republic of Canada had endorsed editorially the granting of permanent observer status to China on February 12, 2012 given the long-standing and serious commitment of China to scientific work in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, stressing that Canada’s relation with China must focus on initiating endeavours that fulfill the ‘common aims of mankind’: a Sino-Canadian alliance in the economy of the future in the Arctic as ‘mankind’s new window into space’. [GG]