About Colin Robertson

A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is a Senior Advisor to Dentons LLP living in Ottawa, Canada and working with the Business Council of Canada. He is Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.  He is an Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. He is on the advisory councils of the  Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the North  American Research Partnership. He is an Honorary Captain (Royal Canadian Navy) assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate. He writes a column every two weeks on foreign affairs for  the Globe and Mail and he is a regular contributor to other media.

Colin can be reached by email at cr@colinrobertson.ca

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Trump and Trudeau

How Trudeau could play nice with Trump

If physical security and economic growth are priorities for Trump, Canada might be in a good shape, says expert

Mike Blanchfield and Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes opening remarks before meeting with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Ottawa, Friday, January 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – Boost defence spending, dial down the volume on battling climate change and find a bridge or energy project to build together.

That was the expert advice Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received Friday on how to get along with new U.S. President Donald Trump and make Canada relevant to his “America First” policy.

Derek Burney, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. under Brian Mulroney, said Trump’s protectionist, pro-American inauguration speech need not be cause for the Trudeau government light its “hair on fire” because there is plenty of policy space for Canada to plug into.

“If physical security and economic growth are his priorities, we’re in good shape to be constructively co-operative with him on both,” said Burney.

“We have common infrastructure that needs modernizing along our border.” He suggested joining forces to modernize the Canada-U.S. electricity grid, or jointly building the proposed Gordie Howe Bridge between southern Ontario and Michigan.

Boosting defence spending should also be seriously considered, said Burney because the U.S. is spending a disproportionate amount in NATO — something Trump has complained loudly about this past week.

Roland Paris, Trudeau’s former foreign policy adviser, said increasing defence spending makes sense regardless of Trump, because it’s a necessary “insurance policy” in an unstable world beset with security threats.

“The ‘America First’ model that Trump has articulated poses a signal challenge to all of America’s partners, whether it’s Europe partners, other members of NATO, Mexico, Canada.”

RELATED: And the biggest economic uncertainty for Canada under Trump is…

Canada doesn’t need to be scared of the Trump administration as long as it creates “a relationship where they see us as partners, not competition,” said Georganne Burke, an American-born Trump supporter who is a vice-president of a Toronto public relations firm.

But Trudeau and his ministers have to hold firm to their constructive approach towards wanting to find common ground with Trump and “stay away from the snark” in its messaging, she said.

That means toning down the rhetoric on the threats posed by climate change because most U.S. conservatives were angered by Barack Obama’s characterization of it as the greatest threat to the world, she said. “They will be willing to talk about environmental issues but they’re going to talk about it in a more conservative fashion.”

Colin Robertson, a veteran ex-diplomat with extensive U.S. experience, said it is crucial for Trudeau and his team to continue pushing the fact that millions of American jobs depend on trade with Canada and that 35 U.S. states count Canada as their top customer.

Robertson said Trudeau took the right approach when said he looked forward to working not only with Trump’s administration but with Congress, state and local governments “to restore prosperity to the middle class on both sides of the border and to create a safer and more peaceful world.”

Trudeau reminded Trump of Canada’s historically close ties with the U.S. in his congratulatory statement issued minutes after the billionaire businessman was sworn in as the 45th president.

“This enduring partnership is essential to our shared prosperity and security,” Trudeau said, citing “robust” trade, investment and economic ties that have long linked the two countries, while supporting millions of jobs.

“We both want to build economies where the middle class, and those working hard to join it, have a fair shot at success.”

Trudeau also spoke to the provincial and territorial premiers about the new administration.

His office said he and the premiers stressed the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship and discussed the opportunities presented by the transition in Washington.

RELATED: How the Trudeau government is bracing for Trump

Earlier Friday, the prime minister urged the mayors of Canada’s biggest cities to keep close ties with their American counterparts to maintain an open border with the U.S. Those relationships will be vital to ensuring open dialogue and trade between the two countries, he said.

The mayors say their relationships with municipal leaders on the other side could serve as a counterbalance to any protectionist movements initiated by the Trump administration, given the trade ties between Canada and American cities and states.

“The United States is not just one president,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who pointed to an upcoming meeting he has with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the issue of climate change.

“It’s a complex system and we’ll do what we have to do. We are already working really hard with different colleagues from south of the border.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he hopes Canada remains open to immigrants from all over the world should Trump follow through on his protectionist threats.

“Let’s ensure that we are open to the world, to trade, to brains to money to ideas and make sure that we seize on this opportunity.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory said taking a seat in the Oval Office could change Trump.

“You realize you have to represent and lead everyone. So I’m hopeful that President Trump will understand that with that office.”

Inauguration Party at Canadian Embassy

Canadian embassy the hottest ticket in town for inauguration

The embassy’s invite-only inauguration “tail-gate” party and VIP brunch is going ahead as planned Friday, and officials insist it could be even larger than similar events held for previous incoming U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama in 2009.

As many as 1,800 people are expected at the embassy, which has hosted inauguration parties every four years dating back to 1993 – for Bill Clinton – leveraging its strategic location on the Pennsylvania Ave., parade route, between the Capitol and the White House.

Bigger, but also a little more awkward than usual, given that Mr. Trump has railed against much of what Canada holds dear, including open borders, free trade and international institutions such as NATO.

Read more: When is Trump the president? Your guide to the U.S. inauguration

Read more: Canadian embassy the hottest ticket in town for inauguration

Read more: What does the Trump era mean for Canada? A guide to what’s coming

But Canadian ambassador David MacNaughton isn’t about to pass up a rare opportunity to mingle with guests, expected to include key players in government, along with diplomats, lobbyists and policy experts. Among the expected guests will be a contingent of Canadian officials led by Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s new Foreign Minister, along with MP and retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie, slated to become parliamentary secretary to Ms. Freeland with special responsibilities for Canada-U.S. relations.

“Hosting an event at our embassy gives Canada an excellent opportunity to welcome important guests, further build on our relationships and continue to advance Canada’s interests in the United States,” embassy spokeswoman Christine Constantin said.

The embassy’s sixth-floor terrace offers sweeping views of the Capitol and the parade route, making it one of the most sought-after spots for Washington A-listers to catch the pomp, circumstance and a glimpse of the new president – with the possible exception of Mr. Trump’s newest hotel, also located on Pennsylvania Ave.

Michael Wilson, who was ambassador in 2009, recalls standing on the embassy steps, surrounded by saluting Mounties in their iconic red serge jackets, as Mr. Obama’s motorcade passed by.

“We have pictures … and inside the darkened windows, you can see the President with a big smile on his face, waving at us,” Mr. Wilson said. “It was quite a fun day.”

Mr. Wilson acknowledged that Mr. Trump’s presidency will be uniquely challenging for Canada, but he insisted that the inauguration is primarily a day of celebration. And the embassy remains a powerful draw on inauguration day. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be telling “the Canadian story” to Americans, he said.

The vantage point to watch the presidential inauguration from the Canadian embassy “is just terrific,” said Maryscott Greenwood, head of the Canadian American Business Council, which represents about 100 companies with business in both countries.

“If you’re going to be in D.C., there isn’t a better place to be,” said Ms. Greenwood, who will be attending the party on Friday.

“It’s a hotly coveted invitation, because it’s a great location, it’s beautiful, it’s convenient. It’s kind of like being in the VIP box at a hockey game or something. You have a bathroom, you have food, interesting people, great view, TVs.”

As with previous inaugurations, the embassy will use the event to promote all things Canadian, including trade, tourism and Canadian fare. This year’s offerings will include Canadian beer, B.C. salmon, tourtière and poutine. The pillars of the embassy’s rotunda facing the parade route will be adorned with words of hope and optimism – “friends, neighbours, partners, allies” – in giant letters.

The party is typically a well-attended, bipartisan event, which represents the celebration of American democracy – not just a particular president.

But of course, Mr. Trump isn’t an ordinary president.

“This is a president who campaigned on, among other things, tearing up NAFTA and questioning NATO. Everything about Donald J. Trump is different. So, yes I think it will different,” Ms. Greenwood said.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who helped organize the 2005 inauguration party for George W. Bush at the embassy, acknowledged this event could be a little trickier than previous ones for Canadian officials.

“The politics are always particular,” he said. “But for us, it’s an opportunity to meet people we haven’t met and connect with them. Because it’s such a great viewing spot, you just never know who’s going to show up.”

The embassy usually posts spotters at the door to identify important guests in the crowd, Mr. Robertson said. In 2009, Arizona Senator John McCain and former House speaker Newt Gingrich rubbed shoulders with actor Michael J. Fox and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

The all-day event starts at 10.30 a.m. Guests will be able to watch the swearing-in and inaugural address from the Capitol building on big-screen TVs. Most of the thousand-plus guests will get to party in the embassy courtyard and the large Canada Room reception area. A more limited number of VIPs are invited to share brunch in the ambassador’s sixth-floor suite, taking in views of the parade as well as the embassy’s art collection, which includes works by the Group of Seven.

Canada and Mexico

If Canadians are wary about the incoming Donald Trump administration, think about the Mexicans. For them, Mr. Trump presents a clear and present danger.

His threats have moved beyond promises to deport “two … it could even be three million” and to build a “Great Wall” across the entire land border that “will be paid back by Mexico.”

Threatening to impose a 35-per-cent border tax, president-elect Trump has cajoled American, Japanese and German companies to abandon their investment plans in Mexico. The peso has plummeted to its lowest levels ever against the U.S. dollar.

To prepare for a President Trump, President Enrique Pena Nieto recently appointed a new Foreign Minister, Luis Videgaray, and yet another new ambassador to the U.S. (the third in nine months). In speeches to Mexico’s diplomatic corps last week, both Mr. Nieto and Mr. Videgary said that in any negotiations with the U.S., the entire bilateral relationship would be on the table, and that Mexico will not pay for the wall.

For Canadians to feel smug or secure would be a mistake. We may not yet be a direct target, but we are within Mr. Trump’s range of vision.

Inevitably, we would become collateral damage, especially when it comes to protectionist border measures. A survey last month of Trump supporters revealed that 73 per cent expect either a better deal or withdrawal from NAFTA within the first 100 days of the Trump presidency.

Mr. Trump promises more enforcement capacity to secure U.S. borders and, at last week’s Senate Homeland Security confirmation hearing for secretary-designate Gen. John Kelly, both Democrats and Republicans told him not to ignore the northern border and pressed for more security. Eight of its 15 members come from northern border states.

Nor would Canada be exempt from any new border tax, said Mr. Trump’s press secretary last week. The National Bank of Canada has estimated a 10-per-cent border levy would cause Canadian exports to slump 9 per cent within a year.

Canada and Mexico need to make common cause in the face of Trumpian excess. A visit to Mexico, before the summer, by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would visibly underline our enduring partnership at a time when Mexicans are feeling vulnerable and alone.

While our borders are different and our responses will reflect our particular circumstances, we need to stay close, especially in any NAFTA discussion with Washington.

An active advocacy campaign – a joint effort led by our consuls, suppliers and their customers – needs to inform Americans, especially those living in the 31 states won by Mr. Trump, that their first or second markets are either Canada or Mexico.

Studies conducted for the Canadian Embassy and by the Wilson Center estimate that our commerce accounts for over 14 million American jobs. Underlining our integrated continental market is the fact that 40 per cent of the finished goods that Americans buy from Mexico, and 20 per cent of what they buy from Canada, is “made in the U.S.A.”

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar, got it right when she warned there is “too much emotion and not enough fact” out there. Ms. Hasenfratz, who also chairs the Business Council of Canada, argues that adding cost and inefficiency would undercut our global competitiveness. The ultimate cost will be borne by the consumer.

We should look at expanding Canada-Mexico trade in produce – their tomatoes and vegetables for our beef and pork. There are major Canadian investments in Mexico – producing trains, planes and automobiles – as well as banking and mining operations. We need an active investment outreach to encourage Mexican firms to follow the lead of Grupo Bimbo, the world’s leading baker, that owns Canada Bread.

Then there are the people-to-people ties. With the visa lifted we can and need to encourage more Mexican tourism and study in Canada.

Any renegotiation of NAFTA should begin with including the improvements already negotiated through the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): preclearance of goods; increasing the number of professionals eligible for fast-track passage and temporary employment; and a trilateral approach to new infrastructure to enhance North American competitiveness.

If Mr. Trump repudiates NAFTA then we should keep it (U.S. withdrawal does not kill NAFTA like it does the TPP) and look for prospective new partners, including Britain, the Pacific Alliance (that includes Chile, Colombia and Peru) and to new partners across the Pacific.

Canada may not be in the crosshairs in the same fashion as Mexico but we have no immunity from Trumpian threats. Canada and Mexico need to hang together or, surely, we will hang separately.

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Trade Opportunities in the USA

Even in the age of Trump, there are U.S. trade opportunities for Canada

Even with an anti-trade President, from aerospace to consumer goods, Canadian companies can still find plenty of trade partners in the United States

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Truck driving over bridge

Fluidconcepts has produced office furnishing for MGM Studios, H&R Block and Variety magazine, among other U.S. clients. Indeed, while the workspace designer and manufacturer may be based in Oakville, Ont., roughly 60% of its sales take place on the other side of the border. So the U.S. election results have caused some anxiety for Byron Leclair, the firm’s president.

President-elect Donald Trump plans to renegotiate or “break” the North American Free Trade Agreement and scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have further reduced trade barriers. Despite the threatening rhetoric, Leclair is not overreacting just yet, opting to hold a wait-and-see position. “It’s speculation at this point, as it always is,” he says. “Right now we are focused on keeping contact with our U.S. customers and letting them know we value our relationship.”

That’s the best course of action for any Canadian business owner right now, says Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “Canadian companies need to remind their American counterparts that this relationship is working for both parties,” he says. “Likewise in Congress, there are both Democrats and Republicans who see the value of closer trade relations with Canada because it serves America’s prosperity.”

The Ottawa-based Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters trade association has advised its 10,000-plus members to avoid any drastic business decisions based on hunches. Senior vice-president Mathew Wilson has faith in the unparalleled relationship between Canada and the U.S.“We don’t just import and export with the U.S. We build things together,” he says, still adding that now is as good a time as any to start thinking about trade diversification.

Putting aside what might or might not happen, there are still some promising export opportunities between the two nations. Energy exports, specifically crude, experienced a year of flat growth due to the Alberta wildfires, but they’ll see a 12% gain next year as demand catches up with supply, according to Export Development Canada (EDC). Consumer goods, a star performer this year thanks to a weaker loonie and robust American spending, will continue to grow next year, albeit moderately, in areas such as household appliances, clothing, and jewellery.

One industry with a shaky but still promising outlook is forestry. About 70% of softwood lumber exports go to the U.S. and 2017 could bring hefty U.S. duties on Canadian timber, increasing costs for producers at home. However, the rebounding U.S. housing market provides some optimism; demand for construction materials such as lumber and wood panelling is expected to stay strong.

“One thing that Canada has to offer to the U.S. is proximity,” says Robert Pelletier, EDC’s U.S. chief representative. “If you think of transportation costs or just-in-time inventories, we certainly have an advantage. That’s not going to go away despite changes in policy.”

Homegrown companies also have one more advantage in their arsenal: the Canadian brand. Says Pelletier: “Companies really like working with Canadian firms because the country is known for reliability and quality.”

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Next US Ambassador to Canada

CTV Host Omar Sachedina interviews Colin Robertson on Power Play on transition of US ambassadors.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1030300

Screen Shot 2017-01-07 at 3.53.34 PM

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Internet Governance

The time is now to forge Internet governance

Last year’s economic contribution of the Internet was estimated at $4.2-trillion (U.S.). If the Internet were a national economy, it would be G5. By 2025, management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that the Internet of Things will generate upward of $11-trillion in efficiency gains and economic growth.

But the dark side, the cost of cybercrime – notably fraud and data theft – was estimated to be as high as $445-billion in 2016. And governments continue to censor and crack down on social media apps to curb dissent.

In its latest annual review, Freedom House, a U.S.-government-funded NGO based in Washington, named Estonia, Iceland and Canada as the top “free nations,” but it reported that Internet freedom declined in 2016 for a sixth consecutive year.

China was identified as the “worst abuser” of Internet freedom because of its “information security” policy and its crackdown on free expression. Brazil dropped from “free to partly free,” while Turkey dropped into “not free” because of its blocking of social-media platforms.

We need some ground rules on Internet use.

Last June, the Global Commission on Internet Governance concluded two years of deliberation. Its report, One Internet, should be the starting point for informed action.

An initiative of Britain’s Chatham House and Canada’s Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) think tanks, the commission was chaired by former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, with significant Canadian participation from co-chair Gordon Smith, co-director Fen Osler Hampson – both distinguished fellows at CIGI – and McKinsey CEO Dominic Barton, who now chairs Ottawa’s advisory panel on economic growth.

The report maps the complex landscape of Internet governance, with its distributed institutions and procedures. The Internet has succeeded, it argues, because it is a network of interoperating networks and was constructed using carrots, not sticks. But national rules are increasingly having global effects – and the trends, Freedom House reports, are cause for corrective action.

One Internet argues for an open Internet system that allows data to flow freely based on efficiency, non-discrimination and freedom of expression. It makes a series of practical recommendations designed to ensure an Internet that is open, secure, trustworthy and inclusive, including:

  • Regular reports by Internet companies naming the governments that block access and listing what they are blocking.
  • Government agreements on targets that are off limits to cyberattack, with a mutual-assistance pact to deter cyberintruders.
  • Public education on cyberhygiene while ensuring broad public access to the Internet.
  • Standards on data protection, privacy and the use of algorithms.
  • Incentives to encourage competition to make the Internet and its devices accessible to all.

Given the experience of Russian hacking in the recent US election and the elections later this year in France, Germany, Netherlands and elsewhere there should also be a prohibition on cyber-interference in the democratic process

The commission argues that any oversight regime (or regimes) must be adaptable and resilient.

In terms of regulatory models, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is perhaps the closest in function, but for effective private-sector participation, designers should also look to the Montreal-based International Air Transport Association (IATA). It provides global governance and standards for airline safety, security, efficiency and sustainability.

Championing Internet governance is an initiative the Trudeau government could usefully incorporate into its multilateralist agenda. The Internet and digital literacy should be a key component in the government’s new development plan. More than 60 per cent of the world remains offline, and the disconnected are disproportionately rural, illiterate and female. In our increasingly digital world, we need to develop a new social contract, one that works to narrow the divide between digital haves and have-nots.

The Internet has created a global commons for commerce and discussion that continues to expand. At its best it accelerates the exposure of corruption and enables research leading to scientific discoveries and medical cures that benefit humanity.

At its intolerant worst, the Internet is a vehicle for fake news, trolling, bullying, anti-Semitism, homophobia, racism and xenophobia.

For the gullible, the Internet encourages the spread of conspiracy theories and breeds suspicion of elites and the establishment. Facts have become fungible in an emerging post-truth, alternative universe of multiple media. This contributes to the Berlusconization of politics: the rise of clownish leaders who say ridiculous things and then laugh them off.

We need standards and norms of Internet behaviour. An international convention on Internet governance would be a useful step forward.

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Mexico A good place to invest

Why Mexico is one of the hottest spots for Canadian exporters right now

Mexico’s middle class is now larger than the entire population of Canada. That’s a huge opportunity for firms looking to boost their exports

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Mexico City streetscape

Jason Greenspan hadn’t thought of Mexico. The Toronto-based entrepreneur behind Whoosh!, a line of screen cleaners for electronic devices, wanted to expand beyond Canada’s borders last year but focused on the United States and Western Europe. But when he started getting calls about Mexico, he couldn’t ignore the country’s huge potential. “Given the growth in cellphone use in Mexico, it made perfect sense for us to export there too,” says Greenspan. Indeed, the country’s emerging middle class is gadget obsessed—and has money to spend.

Whoosh! now relies on international markets for 80% of its revenue; 20% comes from Mexico alone. To prepare for expansion, Greenspan reviewed import regulations to make sure his product’s ingredients were compliant. He redesigned his bright orange packaging to have both English and Mexican Spanish on the label. And he hired commission-based sales representatives in the market. “It’s important to have people on the ground so you can understand the local customers better,” says Greenspan.

Mexico’s middle class now boasts more than 40 million people, surpassing the total population of Canada. Moreover, households in that demographic will increase their spending by 7% annually through 2018, according to a report from the American firm Boston Consulting Group.

These consumers are particularly focused on education, food, and health care products that will improve their standard of living. “Mexico’s middle class is looking for better, high-quality brands from the Canadian market,” says Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Canada and Mexico have shared a strong economic relationship, thanks to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The combined GDP of the three member countries has nearly tripled since the deal, but its potential renegotiation by the new U.S. administration under President Donald Trump could put trade relations on wobbly ground. Still, Teri Nizzola, chief representative for Export Development Canada (EDC) in Mexico, says it doesn’t change the fact that there are big opportunities for Canadian companies to serve Mexico.

Mexico’s newly liberalized energy sector, for example, has started welcoming private companies interested in investing in everything from oil production to storage. It’s also seeking Canadian expertise to help it expand its natural-gas pipelines. “A lot of Mexican players are looking to Canadians because of our historical strength in that sector,” says Nizzola.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s decade-long import ban on Canadian beef was lifted this October. Consumers’ impression of Canada is a land of blue skies and beautiful mountains, says Sven Anders, an agricultural economist and associate professor at the University of Alberta. “That reputation can be an asset to agricultural producers whether they export beef, poultry or grains,” he says.

Despite ample export ventures, companies may still shy away because of language and cultural barriers. Nizzola recommends business owners start by visiting the country and meeting with other Canadian companies already in the market. “Once you’re here, you’ll see that Mexico wants to work with Canadian brands,” she says.

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Aleppo, R2P and Human Security

In the wake of Aleppo, instead of writing the eulogy for R2P – the Responsibility to Protect commitment endorsed by all member states of the United Nations in 2005 – liberal internationalists should seize it as a call to action.

Canada can help. It is time to resuscitate the human-security agenda as a major foreign-policy initiative that would also provide a meaningful Canadian platform in our bid for a Security Council seat in 2020.

In many ways, R2P was a Canadian initiative, the capstone to the Chretien Government’s human-security agenda. Michael Ignatieff was one of R2P’s intellectual godfathers. Ambassador Allan Rock led the successful campaign that led to the UN adoption of R2P at its World Summit in 2005, where members endorsed the protection of populations. R2P meant “never again” to genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

R2P nicely complemented the other major achievements of the human-security agenda: the Land Mines Treaty (1997), the creation of the International Criminal Court (2002) and a continuing succession of UN resolutions condemning the recruitment of child soldiers and use of small arms.

Today, the accomplishments of the human-security agenda are under threat. During his recent visit to Ottawa, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden encouraged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to champion the liberal international order.

It will be a tall order, especially for a leader who has a big domestic agenda to fulfill and who has already carved out an international leadership role on climate change – a bigger challenge given the change in attitude of the next U.S. administration.

Michael Small, who directed the human-security agenda within Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department, has set forth three lessons from that initiative that the new government could usefully heed.

First is to find a champion within cabinet.

As foreign affairs Minister, Lloyd Axworthy diligently worked the international circuit to build a coalition of support beginning with his North American counterparts, U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Mexican foreign minister Rosario Green.

Second is to respond to pressing security needs.

At that time, it was the surge in intra-state conflicts, but today it would also include terrorism, the rise in authoritarianism and declining confidence in rules-based international institutions.

Third is to develop new ideas and build intellectual capital.

The government invested in research at universities, think tanks and non-governmental organizations and encouraged junior officers in Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department to think creatively. That resulted in Canada creating the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, in which Mr. Ignatieff played a lead role along with Australian Gareth Evans and Algerian Mohamed Sahnoun.

In a retrospective look at R2P, Mr. Ignatieff argues that governments must underline to their citizens that protecting civilians is “about preventing harm, not primarily using force.” Avoiding mission creep, he argues, is vital.

All of these lessons will need to be applied if Mr. Trudeau to deliver on his promise to the UN that Canada is “here to help.” Mr. Small also suggests that the Trudeau government could update the human-security agenda with the inclusion of three issues in which it already has a track record: refugee protection, pluralism as an instrument for dealing with conflict reduction and social inclusion, and empowering women.

Building all-party support will be important. The Harper government forcefully promoted maternal and child-health initiatives as well as “girls not brides,” and this work should continue.

Revitalizing R2P will not be easy.

The first test for Mr. Trudeau will be convincing U.S. president-elect Donald Trump to engage. The United States is the guardian of the liberal international order and its deterrent muscle is indispensable.

The tragedy in Aleppo, described by a UN spokesman as a “complete meltdown of humanity,” represents a failure at many levels – national, regional and international. The international humanitarian norms that underwrite human security are eroding, if not collapsing. The secondary effects – a deluge of refugees and terrorism – have contributed to the rise of populism and right-wing movements across the West.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan once asked: “If humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?”

The “shift in the angle of vision” – from that of the state to that of the well-being of its citizens – that inspired R2P and the human-security agenda has lost none of its relevance.

The international community came together after the tragedies in Rwanda (1994), Srebenica (1995) and Darfur (2003). Aleppo reminds us that R2P and the cause of human security needs fresh thinking and new champions.

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Russian Cyberthreats

European countries sound the alarm over threat of Russian cyberattacks

WATCH ABOVE: American intelligence officials say they are convinced that Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential election was approved by President Vladimir Putin.

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Amid growing outrage in the United States over reports that Russian hackers interfered in the election to help Donald Trump, countries in Europe are warning that cyberattacks and disinformation from Moscow could damage upcoming elections.

Intelligence agencies and high-level officials in Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and elsewhere have all voiced concerns over the threat of cyber sabotage by Russia.

WATCH: Donald Trump and the alleged Russian influence over the U.S. Election

 

The concerns come as the Kremlin denied a report Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed how information obtained from hackers was used during the election against U.S. democrats and Hillary Clinton.

Germany’s domestic intelligence service (BfV) warned that Russia has been cyber-targeting German seeking to create “uncertainty in German society” and to destabilize the country ahead of the country’s federal elections in October 2017.

“In the political arena we see increasing and aggressive cyber espionage,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of BfV, in a statement last week. “We see a potential hazard to members of the German government, the Bundestag and employees of democratic parties through cyber operations.”

The head of Britain’s internal intelligence agency MI5 said in November that while Russia had been a covert threat for decades, there are currently more methods available for it to pursue its anti-Western agenda.

READ MORE: Did Russia hack the U.S. presidential election? Here’s what we know

Spy agencies in Sweden and France and the Netherlands — both of which have federal elections in the spring of 2017 — also issued similar statements about the increasing Russian cyber threat.

What is Russia’s goal?

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, said there is not only growing apprehension in Europe but also among the Five Eyes — an intelligence alliance between Canada, U.S., U.K.,  Australia and New Zealand.

“This is remarkable,” said Robertson, vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “Countries in Europe with forthcoming elections are very conscious [of the Russia threat].”

WATCH: Russia intervened to help Trump win White House, CIA says

Robertson said Putin’s goal is to expand Russia’s influence on former Soviet countries while undermining members of NATO.

“Russia’s goal is to destabilize the western alliance and to reassert Russia as a great power,” he said. “Putin sees his only means of survival is to continue to expand Russian influence … and cyber espionage is one of his main tools.”

Russia using false news

The spread of fake news and disinformation during the presidential election had many pointing fingers at Russia and now EU countries are worried the troubling trend could affect their democratic processes.

WATCH: Did fake news influence the outcome of the U.S. election?

William Courtney, an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND think tank in Washington and a former U.S. diplomat, told Global News that the spread of false news stories have been a powerful weapon for Russia.

“[Russia] thinks they helped tip the balance in electing Donald Trump and this is only going to encourage them to do more,” Courtney said.

Courtney pointed to a story earlier this year in Germany that stoked immigration fears after a 13-year-old Russian-German teen said she had been raped by migrants. The story was sensationalized by Russian state television but then debunked after the girl admitted to making up the story.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see [political influence campaigns] stepped up in Europe — certainly in Europe — but also in America,” he said.

READ MORE: Hillary Clinton slams ‘epidemic’ of fake news online: ‘Lives are at risk’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her party, the Christian Democratic Union, had been targeted by Russian hackers earlier this year and warned that false information disseminated by Russia could help shift the federal elections toward the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which has received a boost in popularity over the migrant crisis.

“We are already, even now, having to deal with information out of Russia or with internet attacks that are of Russian origin or with news which sows false information,” Merkel said at a press conference in in November, according to The Guardian.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the U.S. or Europe. Trump has also dismissed the reports from intelligence agencies and said in a statement the CIA “are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

*With files from Reuters

 

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Joe Biden Visit

Joe Biden drops in for a visit without any gifts: Chris Hall

U.S. vice-president could provide insight about what to expect from next administration

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: Dec 08, 2016 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Dec 08, 2016 7:57 AM ET

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden will arrive in Ottawa on Thursday for a two-day official visit.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden will arrive in Ottawa on Thursday for a two-day official visit. (Jessica Hromas/Reuters)

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He’s just a few weeks away from becoming just another ordinary Joe. But that’s not stopping U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden from making an official visit to Ottawa, where the Canadian government will roll out the red carpet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will play host to Biden at a dinner on Thursday night that’s being billed as an occasion to celebrate the Canada-U.S. relationship.

The next morning, the man who’s been Barack Obama’s No. 2 for the past eight years will meet with premiers and Indigenous leaders who, by happy coincidence, are in the nation’s capital for their own two-day visit with the prime minister to discuss climate change and health care.

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President-elect Donald Trump is getting ready to take over the White House from Barack Obama, which might explain why some files that concern Canada seem to have stalled. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Biden will hold bilateral meetings with Trudeau on Friday to discuss the “strong partnership” between Canada and the U.S. He’ll then join the first ministers to discuss the state of Canada-U.S. relations as well as other global issues.

But, given the season and all, anyone expecting Biden to come bearing gifts will be disappointed. There’s been no deal brokered in the final days of the Obama administration to resolve the softwood lumber dispute. No new measures to co-ordinate climate change policies. No pipeline approval wrapped up neatly with a bow.

What to expect from Trump

“It’s really a salutary visit intended to make Canadians feel good about the relationship with the U.S.,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington. “There’s not much of substance for him to offer when he’s unconnected to the incoming administration of Donald Trump.”

That’s not to dismiss the visit as merely the first stop of a Biden farewell tour. As vice-president, and before that as a two-time chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, he’s well-positioned, as one Canadian diplomat put it, “to showcase the bilateral relationship.” Perhaps most importantly, he can at least explain what Canadian politicians should look for when Trump becomes president next month.

“There are a lot of concerns about the Trump election and what it means for trade and the border,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who’s now a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“As a former longtime senator, Biden can underline that while presidents have a lot of power, the checks and balances inherent in the U.S. system mean that major legislative changes require congressional approval.”

Even though the Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Senate, that doesn’t necessarily mean Trump will always get his way.

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Some of Trump’s statements and tweets have caused real concern in Canada. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

It all speaks to the ongoing uneasiness caused by what Trump’s been saying (and tweeting) on any number of issues that directly affect Canada, and the growing uncertainty about whether the president-elect actually means what he says.

There’s no shortage of these pronouncements. Trump’s going to scrap NAFTA, withdraw U.S. support for the Paris climate accord, roll back the number of Syrian refugees, tighten the border and end the days when freeloading members of NATO could simply count on American military might.

Dawson would add the near-certainty that Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure pledge will re-insert Buy American provisions that would exclude Canadian manufacturers and producers.

“Canada needs to be vigilant to avoid becoming collateral damage,” she says. “That’s something on which the vice-president can offer some reassurance that the deep ties between the two countries, at the operational and regulatory level, will remain intact.”

Reputation for plain talk

Biden’s own reputation for plain talk and straying from talking points may not rival Trump’s. But it could benefit Canadian politicians who want an unvarnished view of where this critical bilateral relationship is heading. Biden’s the one most likely to deliver it.

The visit even offers an opportunity for ordinary Canadians to contribute their own Joe Biden memes. The collection of captioned photos in which the vice-president concocts all sorts of plans to sabotage Trump’s arrival at the White House has flourished online since the Nov. 8 election. It’s helped burnish what The New Yorker has called Biden’s “singular place in the pop culture of American politics.”

Trudeau, of course, is no slouch as a pop culture icon.

The prime minister’s closeness to Obama is well-documented on both sides of the border. It goes beyond the shared ideologies of Liberal and Democrat to the kind of working relationship between a prime minister and president that, in the past, produced treaties on free trade and acid rain.

It doesn’t seem likely that Trudeau and Trump will forge that bond.

So the Biden visit, at least, reinforces the connection with the outgoing administration, and could help nail down decisions on outstanding issues, such as mutual co-operation in the Arctic and the legislation to expand the number of locations offering customs pre-clearance for U.S.-bound travellers, before Trump sits in the Oval Office.

It’s not much. But these days, it’s all the soon-to-be ordinary Joe really has to offer.

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