I am delighted to be coming to Canada, the beautiful land of maples. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a visit to China, during which the two sides reached extensive common understanding on the development of China-Canada relations. My visit to Canada at a short interval of three weeks is to inaugurate the new annual dialogue between our heads of government and further promote mutual understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries to secure fresh progress for the China-Canada strategic partnership.
As an ancient poem goes, distance cannot divide true friends who feel close even when thousands of miles apart. Though separated by the vast Pacific Ocean, our two peoples enjoy a deep bond of amity and goodwill. As early as the latter half of the 19th century, tens of thousands of Chinese workers came to Canada to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway, which linked up the country's east and west and contributed to Canada's economic and social development. In the 1930s, Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor, devoted himself to the Chinese people's struggle against Japanese aggression and made the ultimate sacrifice. In the 1970s, defying all odds, the older generation of Chinese and Canadian leaders made the bold and visionary decision to open the door of relations between our countries, making Canada one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with New China. All these episodes remain fresh in the memory of many Chinese and Canadians.
Recent years have seen more such handshakes across the Pacific. We decided to set up an annual dialogue between the Premier of China and the Prime Minister of Canada, which will make policy communication between us more timely and effective. China is Canada's second largest trading partner. Bucking the trend of steep decline in global trade, China-Canada trade continued to rise last year. Two-way investment has been booming, evidenced by a 126% increase in the investment by Chinese companies in Canada last year. Our people-to-people exchanges are also growing. Each week 90 or so flights crisscross between us, making possible more than 1.3 million visits between us last year.
China-Canada relations enjoy a solid foundation and bright prospects. There is neither past grievances nor foreseeable major conflicts of interests between us. Our economies, which are at different stages of development, are highly complementary, making us natural partners of cooperation. We both uphold multilateralism and cultural diversity, and are active players and contributors in the international system. In the context of the sluggish world economic recovery, our countries face greater challenges in economic development and business cooperation, yet our converging interests and mutual need have also grown stronger. It remains in the fundamental interests of both countries to expand multi-dimensional and high-quality cooperation.
Mutual trust is the cornerstone of friendly relations and cooperation between China and Canada. We appreciate the pro-active approach taken by the new Canadian government toward developing relations with China. We are ready to work with Canada to cultivate a healthy, stable and future-oriented strategic partnership in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and win-win cooperation. We will step up communication and coordination with Canada at the UN, G20, APEC and other fora to send a positive signal of China and Canada working together to promote world peace and stability, and contribute our share to the recovery of the world economy. The two sides should respect each other's concerns on issues of vital interests and the right to independently choose the path of development and overcome distractions to make sure that the ship of China-Canada relations power ahead on the right course.
Economic cooperation and trade is the driving force of China-Canada relations. Currently, China-Canada trade only accounts for 1.4% of China's total foreign trade and 8.1% of that of Canada. Canadian investment in China takes up less than 1% of all foreign investment in China, and Chinese investment in Canada is a mere 2.7% of total foreign investment in Canada. This spells out a tremendous potential to develop our trade and economic cooperation. China is willing to open its markets wider and further increase imports of high-quality agricultural and hi-tech products from Canada. We hope the feasibility study on a China-Canada free trade area can be launched expeditiously to lay the institutional foundation for liberalized trade between the two countries. We welcome Canadian companies to make investments and do business in China to share the opportunities that come with China's economic growth. We encourage competent Chinese companies to invest in Canada to help drive the local economy and create more jobs. It is hoped that the Canadian side will view economic relations and trade with China in an objective and rational way and work to nurture a sound policy environment and favorable public opinion for such cooperation.
People-to-people exchanges are a powerful catalyst for China-Canada friendly cooperation. Amity between the people holds the key to state-to-state relations. In recent years, people-to-people and cultural exchanges have increased between our countries, deepening the bond of friendship between our peoples. Canada has become a key destination for Chinese tourists and students, with the number of Chinese students studying in Canada reaching more than 150,000. Chinese language and culture are getting popular with Canadians and more and more young Canadians take to Chinese calligraphy and Kungfu. Chinese TV programs feature well-known Canadians, and the "Group of Seven" is popular with many Chinese. Following the year of cultural exchange 2015-2016, our two countries have dedicated the year 2018 as the year of tourism between China and Canada. We encourage more Chinese to visit Canada and welcome more Canadian friends to come to China and see our country. I will make use of this visit to further boost China-Canada people-to-people and cultural exchange, and encourage exchanges and cooperation in education, culture, tourism, sports, women, youth and local affairs to solidify popular support for China-Canada relations.
This is the season for the fiery maple in Canada, symbolizing the prosperity of China-Canada all-round cooperation. China will work with Canada to enrich our strategic partnership and tap the potential of practical cooperation to bring more benefits to the Chinese and Canadian peoples.