Stephen Harper and Chinese officials signed a flurry of trade and currency deals on Saturday worth as much as $2.5 billion.

The currency agreement will foster far easier trade between the Canadian dollar and the Chinese currency, and makes Canada the first country in the Americas to have a deal to trade in the yuan, also known as the renminbi.

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Harper said his goal was to ensure all dealings with China benefitted Canada first and foremost.

“Our approach to this relationship is to first and always make sure we protect and defend Canadian interests,” he said.

“We obviously want to have a good relationship but it has to be a good relationship that serves this country’s interests…. I think we have significantly advanced the economic relationship.”

Harper is making an appearance Monday at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in the Chinese capital before flying home to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies on Parliament Hill. He then flies to New Zealand before heading to Australia for a G20 summit.

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Ian Russell, president and CEO of the Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC), says “[t]his new RMB trading hub will be a catalyst for the growth of the financial services industry in Canada, both from expansion in domestic enterprise, and increased interest from foreign financial institutions and related service providers to Canada.

“The MoU will provide a market to buy and sell RMB during North American business hours. This will facilitate Canadian businesses needing RMB to buy goods and make investments in China in its local currency. Canada’s investment industry will also benefit by serving as a gateway for U.S. and Latin American firms wanting to do business using the RMB currency.”

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