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Even the scientific agreement proved of little value to Canada, Mr. Wilkins added, reporting on a conversation with Martin Charron, a deputy director for commercial relations with Asia in the Canada’s Foreign Ministry.

“Charron indicated that there was little substance to the agreement, and it was unclear exactly what, if anything, it would lead to,” Mr. Wilkins said.

In another cable, the ambassador reported on Mr. Harper’s tough line on Beijing concerning human rights, after he won the prime minister post in 2006.

China has been a special focus on [Mr.] Harper’s defense of human rights abroad,” said Mr. Wilkins, who served in Ottawa from 2005 to January 2009.

Beijing “reacted angrily” to Mr. Harper’s policy, the ambassador added.

Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper this week first reported on the cables, which were released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.