Chinese state-owned companies tap into Canada's wage subsidy despite diplomatic dispute

OTTAWA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Some Chinese state-owned enterprises operating in Canada have tapped into Ottawa’s wage subsidy program aimed at saving jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, despite a dispute between the two governments.

A Canadian government online database lists the units of China Petroleum and Chemicals Corp, also known as Sinopec, CNOOC Ltd as well as PetroChina Ltd among recipients of the wage subsidy, but it does not reveal the value of the subsidies.

Bank of China, Air China and China Southern Airlines Co also appear on the list.

Canada’s 2018 arrest of a Huawei Technologies executive on a U.S. extradition request angered Beijing, and China subsequently jailed two Canadians in a move that Ottawa has said was without cause.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government launched the wage subsidy last spring and the program has so far paid out C$57 billion ($44.9 billion) in claims, including hundreds of multi-million dollar claims. The subsidy covers up to 75% of a worker’s wages up to a maximum benefit of C$847 per week.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the purpose of the wage subsidy was to protect Canadian jobs and applies to businesses of all size.

“We recognize that some state-owned enterprises have accessed the program to support jobs in Canada. We continue to actively assess adjustments to the Wage Subsidy,” Katherine Cuplinskas said.

A representative for the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa could not immediately be reached for comment. ($1 = 1.2699 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nia Williams in Calgary; editing by Grant McCool)