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Panda diplomacy: China to give two to Canada

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks at a panda being held by his wife Laureen at a zoo in Chongqing, China, Saturday.

China is to send two giant pandas to Canada, it was formally announced Saturday, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper hailed the "mutual respect" and "goodwill" between the two countries, according to a report.

The pandas, Er Shun and Ji Li, will be housed at Toronto and Calgary zoos for five years and cost more than $1 million a year, the Winnipeg Free Press reported.

Adrian Wyld / AP

A baby panda appears to offer a paw to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"Canada and China enjoy a strategic partnership based on mutual respect and collaboration," Harper said at a zoo in Chongqing, as Er Shun ate bamboo in the background, the Free Press said.

"Our mutual love for pandas is one more example of the goodwill that underlies the relationship between Canada and China," he added.

Harper, along with his wife Laureen, were allowed to hold and pet a four-month-old panda, ahead of the announcement.

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