About Colin Robertson

A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is a Senior Advisor to Dentons LLP living in Ottawa, Canada. He is Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and hosts its regular Global Exchange podcast.  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.  Robertson sits on the advisory councils of  the Johnson-Shoyama School of Public PolicyConference of Defence Associations Institute , North  American Research Partnership , the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa . He is an Honorary Captain (Royal Canadian Navy) assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate. He is a member of the Deputy Minister of International Trade’s NAFTA Advisory Council.  He writes a regular column  on foreign affairs for  the Globe and Mail and he is a frequent contributor to other media.

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

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Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft


Trump’s ‘influential’ pick for ambassador to Canada faces Senate hearing

Kelly Knight Craft donated $265K to Trump campaign committee in 2016

By Matt Kwong, CBC News Posted: Jul 20, 2017 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Jul 20, 2017 9:27 AM ET

U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick for the next ambassador to Canada, a deep-pocketed Republican donor with influential allies in Congress and family ties with a Kentucky coal empire, faces her Senate confirmation hearing Thursday.

Kelly Knight Craft will testify before the Senate committee on foreign relations in a joint session with Trump’s nominees for ambassador to NATO and the U.K.

Craft and her husband, billionaire coal-mining magnate Joe Craft, donated about $265,000 to a committee backing Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. She announced her support for Trump after getting assurances that he wouldn’t bump House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell from their roles.

Maryscott Greenwood, who is the senior adviser to the Canadian American Business Council and knows Craft personally through mutual friends, calls her nomination a “terrific” choice.

kelly knight craft UN

Craft addresses the United Nations about U.S. engagement in Africa in 2007. President George W. Bush chose her as an alternate delegate to the UN. (Courtesy of Glasgow Daily Times)

Craft “brings a Southern charm that Gordon Giffin and David Wilkins also had,” she said, referring to two previous ambassadors to Canada.

“She’s quite impressive. Canadians will see that when they get a first chance to hear her in her own words.”

With more than $700 billion in two-way trade of goods and services between Canada and the U.S., along with issues regarding cross-border security and energy, “the deeper our ambassador’s connections with policy-makers, the better able she is to navigate this huge, complicated relationship,” Greenwood said.

Those connections with the White House and key members of Congress could prove very beneficial to Canada, experts say, particularly as Ottawa braces for U.S. tax reform and “Buy American” rules for a $1-trillion infrastructure plan that could lock out Canadian firms.


David Wilkins was a close family friend of George W. Bush when he was appointed ambassador to Canada. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

“The importance of the ambassador, really, is how close to the administration is she or he?” said Derek Burney, Canadian ambassador to the U.S. from 1989 to 1993.

“She must have the confidence of the president to get this appointment. And if she has the ear of the president, that’s good for us.”

Her appointment would come at a crucial time. On Monday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released a blueprint of objectives for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Formal talks are scheduled to begin Aug. 16.

It’s in the interests of Canada and the U.S. to have that “point person” on site as soon as possible, said former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

“The ambassador acts as the quarterback in the field. With the release of the U.S. objectives for NAFTA, it’s very important that the Americans have an ambassador in Ottawa that can feed back into the United States the reaction of the Canadians.”

Joe Craft

Craft, right, with her husband, Joe Craft, a billionaire coal-mining magnate who has criticized former president Barack Obama’s climate policies. (Courtesy of Glasgow Daily Times)

One potential area of tension for Craft in Canada’s capital could be her strong links to the coal sector, said Elliot Tepper, a distinguished senior fellow with Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa.

“What’s clear is that her interests in regard to the coal industry are in sync with the American administration, but out of sync with the Canadian government at the moment,” Tepper said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government announced plans last November to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030. Meanwhile, Trump has pledged to revive coal jobs in the U.S.

Craft’s husband is the CEO of Alliance Resource Partners LP, one of the largest coal producers in the eastern U.S. He has questioned the science and dangers of climate change, diverging from Canada’s position.

But Tepper said such factors are mitigated by the fact Canada has already gone through a six-month period of adjustment with its primary strategic and diplomatic trading partner.

‘Quick and without controversy’

Potential political differences with Canada aside, when lawmakers question Craft at Thursday morning’s joint session, her testimony should go smoothly, aided by a Republican majority on the committee.

Hearings for the Canadian ambassador post are typically “quick and without controversy,” following some warm remarks and introductions, said Robertson, who attended the hearings for former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins.

“I suspect all the ducks are lined up and her hearing will go quickly, and that she’ll be confirmed early next week,” the former diplomat said.

Craft previously ran a marketing consulting firm. In 2007, she was appointed as an alternate to the United Nations by President George W. Bush, advising on U.S. engagement in Africa.

U.S. ambassadorships to Canada are considered plum postings, typically not awarded to career diplomats but to key fundraisers who have the confidence of the president and may be well connected in Washington.

Wilkins, a South Carolina lawyer, was a top Republican donor and close family friend of George W. Bush. The most recent ambassador, Bruce Heyman, helped raise more than $1 million for Barack Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2011 and 2012.

Bruce Heyman

Bruce Heyman, a Barack Obama appointee, resigned as ambassador to Canada back in January because Trump wanted to name his own ambassadors. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Heyman resigned on Jan. 20, heeding Trump’s State Department instructions for ambassadors to clear house by inauguration day so he could name his own envoys.

While Craft has been active in philanthropy and also served on the University of Kentucky’s board of trustees, Tepper said little is known about her diplomatic or political skills.

“We know that she’s influential. What we do not know is if she has the requisite communication and diplomatic skills,” he said. “That will be tested during the confirmation hearings.”

Global Trump at Six Months

Six Months of Trump:  What are the lessons learned as Canada heads into NAFTA negotiations


July 19, 2017

CALGARY- The University of Calgary School of Public Policy and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute today release a report that examines the first six months of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. The paper looks at the Trump approach, asks is there an emerging Trump doctrine, and offers some perspectives on the Trump Administration’s global policies after six months. According to author Colin Robertson, a Fellow of the School of Public Policy and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute:

Canada will have to actively engage with Congress, the states and the private and public interests that drive the American agenda. We will also have to put more effort and contribute more to the rules-based order of which we have been a beneficiary.  Traditional statecraft is based on predictability and stability, both hallmarks of U.S. post-war foreign policy practised by both Democrats and Republicans. Predictable, Mr. Trump is not. The deliberation and careful planning that characterized the Obama administration have been replaced by Mr. Trump’s reliance on gut and instinct. Such unpredictability will continue to create heartburn inside foreign chancelleries, whether friend or foe.”


Where once the USA was prepared to cover the spread on trade and security, under Donald Trump there will be more take than give. Now, Canada and the allies will have to make their own investments in hard power to preserve collective security. But less dependence and reliance on US leadership and more collective responsibility would be a good thing.


Middle powers, like Canada, will have to step up their diplomacy, both collective and individual. Focusing on their own niche capacities they will have to shore up the space left by Trump Administration decisions on climate, migration and at the international institutions that sustain the rules-based order. Ironically, one effect of the Trump presidency may be to make the western alliance stronger.


The text follows. The report can also be found online at www.policyschool.ca/publications/

America First:

The Global Trump at Six Months




For Donald Trump ‘America First’ means ‘America First.’ Canada and like-minded nations will have to get used to it.


Canada will have to actively engage with Congress, the states and the private and public interests that drive the American agenda. We will also have to put more effort and contribute more to the rules-based order of which we have been a beneficiary.


Traditional statecraft is based on predictability and stability, both hallmarks of U.S. post-war foreign policy practised by both Democrats and Republicans. Predictable, Mr. Trump is not. The deliberation and careful planning that characterized the Obama administration have been replaced by Mr. Trump’s reliance on gut and instinct. Such unpredictability will continue to create heartburn inside foreign chancelleries, whether friend or foe.


Where once the USA was prepared to cover the spread on trade and security, under Donald Trump there will be more take than give. Now, Canada and the allies will have to make their own investments in hard power to preserve collective security. But less dependence and reliance on US leadership and more collective responsibility would be a good thing.


Middle powers, like Canada, will have to step up their diplomacy, both collective and individual. Focusing on their own niche capacities they will have to shore up the space left by Trump Administration decisions on climate, migration and at the international institutions that sustain the rules-based order. Ironically, one effect of the Trump presidency may be to make the western alliance stronger.



President Donald Trump: A ‘Spectacle of Excess’


In action and words, President Donald Trump, like Candidate Donald Trump, continues to demonstrate a “spectacle of excess.”


Blunt and abrasive, bombastic and brash, Donald Trump is an insurgent. He campaigned as the champion of America’s “forgotten men and women” and his “America First” policy draws unabashedly on nativism, populism and protectionism.


Since taking office, President Trump has acted on many of his specific pledges, drawing frequently on his executive powers.


Executive orders suspended immigration from seven Muslim countries (although were promptly overturned by judges). Executive orders approved construction of both the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline. Executive orders rolled back president Obama’s Clean Power Plan, replacing it with President Trump’s Energy Independence Policy.


Another set of orders withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), ordered the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and opened a 90-day investigation in America’s trade deficits with 16 countries (including Canada).


Trump’s first budget proposals increased spending for defence and homeland security, while cutting funding for the environment, diplomacy and most other agencies.


Neither the discipline of power, nor convention, nor political correctness matters to Donald Trump.


The Trump cabinet is whiter, wealthier, older and more male than those of George W. Bush or Barack Obama. It has an unusually high representation of “billionaires and generals.”


The presidency has done nothing to temper Donald Trump’s bombast or brash behaviour. The mainstream media and its “fake news” gets the back of his hand. While Mr. Trump’s supporters may give him a pass in the short-term eventually the lies and theatrics will wear thin.  As Elaine Kamarck, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, observes:
“President Trump has consistently behaved in ways that undermine his own self-interest. Take the Russia issue. It is entirely possible that he is completely innocent. But almost everything he has said or done since the election undermines that possibility, and reminds one of that old saying: where there’s smoke there’s fire. Moreover, he has consistently said things that are not true — like that Obama had him wiretapped or that his Electoral College victory was the biggest since Ronald Reagan. Following these tweets or statements, he inexplicably has stood by them in the face of no evidence. He repeatedly seems to go out of his way to make enemies, not friends, by attacking the press and reporters personally. There have also been times when his words in front of a group have been completely inappropriate.”


Donald Trump’s diplomatic approach is unlike any other US president, confounding America’s traditional friends and allies.


Autocrats appear to get a pass if not an embrace. After Turkey’s referendum, Mr. Trump congratulated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the only western leader to do so. He lavished praise on General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt’s military leader. He backed Marine LePen and the far right in the French elections. His first official visit took him to Saudi Arabia where he lauded its theocratic rulers and those of the Gulf nations. He treated Chinese President Xi Jing-ping at Mar-a-Lago and gave Russian President Vladimir Putin more time than any other leader at the G-20.


Allies have not had the same treatment. When the conversation turned sour, he reportedly “hung up” on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a Washington visit after Mr. Trump tweeted that “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” He refused to shake hands with Angela Merkel, the democratically elected leader of Germany whom The Economist magazine once described as the “Indispensable European”. He tweeted abuse at the mayor of London after that city’s terrorist attacks. Arriving at the NATO summit in Brussels he lambasted the allies for not paying their dues.


The Trump approach comes with a cost. After the G7 and NATO meetings, Conservative pundit David Frum tweeted: “Since 1945, the supreme strategic goal in Europe of the USSR and then Russia was the severing of the U.S.-German alliance. Trump delivered.”


Then there are the lies.


After a hundred days in office the Washington Post catalogued 492 false or misleading claims, following on the 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings Donald Trump earned as a presidential candidate. The New York Times is still keeping a list believing that “as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them.” By design or accident, his tweets, whoppers and pronouncements keep him at the forefront of the media cycle.


To the consternation of his critics, it delights his supporters whose support remains strong. But at some point, the public is likely to become fatigued and long for a return to stable government.

A Trump Doctrine?

Promising to “make America great again,” Donald Trump told GOP delegates at his Cleveland nomination convention that “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo” because only then will Americans “get the respect that we deserve.” He promised to rebuild America’s defence establishment saying: “we don’t want to have a depleted military because we’re all over the place fighting in areas that we shouldn’t be fighting in. It’s not going to be depleted any longer.”


Throughout the campaign and then in his “thank-you” stops after his election, Mr. Trump was emphatic about keeping American forces out of foreign wars, saying that “we will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with.” Instead he said, “our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS, and we will.”


Now, President Trump faces hard decisions around increasing the military commitment in Afghanistan and continuing to sustain the effort in Iraq and Syria.

Since his Inaugural Address, his speech to the people of Poland has provided the most insight into President Trump’s global perspective. In asking a series of questions in Warsaw’s Krasinski Square (July 6, 2017), he  returned to the dark “carnage in America” theme of his Inaugural Address :

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the west has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilisation in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

In their Wall Street Journal column ‘America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone’ (May 30, 2017), National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn write that while the US is “asking a lot of our allies and partners… in return America will once again be a true friend to our partners and the worst foe to our enemies.”

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis spoke (June 2, 2017) in a similar vein when he said at the Shangri-la Security Dialogue in Singapore: “we have a deep and abiding commitment to reinforcing the rules-based international order”.

In speaking to State Department employees, Secretary Rex Tillerson observed that the ‘America First’ policy “doesn’t mean it comes at the expense of others. Our partnerships and our alliances are critical to our success … but we’ve got to bring them back into balance.”

Unlike the often lengthy deliberation practised by the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration is not reluctant to act quickly.


The intervention in Syria was the Administration’s first major military initiative. President Trump said he found the pictures of gassed children choking to death “reprehensible” and insisted they “cannot be ignored by the civilized world.”


Secretary Tillerson and General MacMaster argued that the Trump administration would be “willing to act when governments and actors cross the line” and that the “strike itself was proportional because it was targeted at the facility that delivered this most recent chemical weapons attack”.


General McMaster observed that they had “weighed the risk associated with any military action, but we weighed that against the risk of inaction … which is the risk of (these) continued, egregious, inhumane attacks on innocent civilians with chemical weapons.”


The Obama administration was accused of dithering and over-deliberating before taking action. This is not likely to apply to the Trump administration. Rather it would do well to heed Talleyrand’s advice to leaders: ‘Surtout, pas trop de zele’ (Above all, not too much zeal).


Bloomberg’s Margaret Telev observed that the Trump approach at the G7 and NATO summit “was calibrated by the White House to show … to a domestic audience, as well as to Europe, that President Trump is not going to abandon every position that he held from the campaign just because he is here in these meetings, but, at the same time, there was a recognition from his aides that the more he engages with key allies all over the world, the more nuance is brought to the table in terms of him understanding the leadership role that the U.S. is expected to fulfill and the complexities of those obligations.”


Looking at the Trump administration after five months, Elliott Abrams, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations — whose appointment as deputy secretary at the State Department was nixed by Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon — observed: “this is not a revolutionary administration. The broad lines of its policy fit easily within those of the last few decades. Trump might not be a conventional president, but so far, his foreign policy has been remarkably unremarkable.” Perhaps.


Concluding Observations


President Donald Trump is unconventional and unpredictable. On the road, his blend of bravado, bullying, and bluster fits easily into the stereotypical characterization of the “ugly American.”


But as Prime Minister Trudeau, who has managed his relationship as well as any foreign leaders, observes: “I have always found that whenever he has made an engagement to me or a commitment to me on the phone or in person, he followed through on that, and that is someone you can work with,”


To understand Donald Trump, one needs to read his 1987 book Trump: The Art of the Deal, which chronicles his various business deals in his successful effort to build a real estate empire. It underlines his preference for bilateral negotiations (third parties, he writes, are unnecessary complications, which result in leaving money on the table). Think big and, as Mr. Trump writes, “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.”  Those negotiating with the Trump Administration, including Canadian and Mexicans who will soon begin re-negotiatio of the NAFTA,  should keep this in mind.


There is a tendency among new administrations, especially with a change in party, to vilify and repudiate the policies of their predecessors. This danger is magnified in the Trump administration. Assuming malfeasance and error, on the part of their predecessor, leads to over-correction. The repudiation of the Paris Climate Accord is a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water.


Nuance is not President Trump’s thing. In language, tone and application, Donald Trump’s international policy pronouncements on big issues like climate, migration, trade and on the utility of multilateralism are an abrupt departure from post-war American policy. But it is not by its rhetoric that the Trump administration should be judged, but rather its actions.


Here the record is less dogmatic and there is more evidence of continuity than of change in foreign policy: the intervention in Syria to preserve international norms on chemical warfare; confrontations with Russia over its lack of accountability; pragmatism towards China; and the re-embracing of the value of NATO and of collective defence, a 180-degree shift from Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric, albeit with an emphasis on allies pulling their weight in terms of sharing the burden.


There is more reliance on muscle, almost theatrically so.


There was the highly publicized dropping in April 2017 of the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan, and the May 2017 launching of missiles against Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian air base as “after-dinner entertainment” while Mr. Trump was hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. President Trump has told North Korea it has “gotta behave.” Vice President Mike Pence and cabinet secretaries James Mattis and Rex Tillerson have all echoed the warning to North Korea that “all options are on the table,” pointing to the “strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan.”


All new administrations have their pratfalls, but during the first six months of the Trump administration, rarely a day goes by without some controversy and they are not helped by Mr. Trump’s tweets.


If Mr. Trump’s administration is unpredictable, it is not entirely capricious.


On the details of an issue, even hot-button items like waterboarding, for example, or providing explanations on a crisis like the Syrian intervention, President Trump says he will defer to his cabinet officers (although, he will also sometimes go his own way, as he demonstrated with his refusal to explicitly underline U.S. support for NATO’s Article 5 at the Brussels summit). He is much more a CEO than a micro-manager.


As the Trump administration approaches six months in office there has been consistency with campaign promises around the decisions to withdraw from the TPP, to freeze the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, to renegotiate NAFTA, and to pull out of the Paris climate accord.


There is clearer definition on its policies: trade – protectionist; energy – drill and burn fossil fuels; climate – repudiation; defence – more money; and the rest of government – less money. To secure U.S. energy independence, the energy team is carrying through on the campaign promise of “drill, baby, drill” and repeal of Obama era environmental regulation.


There have been shifts: on NATO (now for it) and China (now more friend than enemy since the Xi-Trump Mar-a-Lago summit) while the warm words during the campaign for Vladimir Putin have been tempered by events. Where once the US led across the board, there are now deep divisions with its closest allies on climate, on trade, on migration, on the utility of multilateralism.


There is still much to be determined: an approach to Africa or Latin America and the rest of Asia (beyond China and North Korea); involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria; an Iran policy; and functional policies, for example, on cybersecurity and human rights.


The trade team, led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House Trade Director Peter Navarro, is mercantilist and anti-China. They want to do more enforcement on the trade scofflaws and, at the same time, re-negotiate the various trade pacts, beginning with NAFTA. Their challenge will be their capacity to cope with all the hares they have set running, including acting on the executive orders on trade deficits, steel and aluminum and Hire American and Buy American.


Too much decision-making appears to be done on the run. The White House media briefings are chaotic and vitriolic. There is no appearance of order and deliberation.


All new administrations endure initial jostling for position by the main players for place and standing. In this Administration, the appearance is that the elbows are sharper and the divisions increasingly personal. Until the full team is in place, figuring out who is up and who is down, and where and how decisions are made is difficult.


While the cabinet is in place, most of the supporting cast of deputies, assistants and deputy assistant secretaries are still to be named let alone confirmed. As of July 4, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, nominees for just 46 out of 561 key jobs in the Trump administration had been confirmed by the Senate, and there are still no nominees for 384 positions.


The liberal-based international order has always relied on its guardian, the United States to be the adult in the room. U.S. allies are beginning to say publicly what they say to themselves in private: that a Trump-led America is not a reliable ally.


Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland recently observed in outlining the contours of her government’s foreign policy that while the U.S. has “truly been the indispensable nation,” it may be tiring of “global leadership.” Canada and like-minded, middle-power nations will have to step up in defence of the rules-based liberal international system.


Keeping balance and preserving stability during Trump times will be a test for diplomacy and diplomatic services the world over.

Full Court Press on USA

‘Full court press’ by ministers, Trudeau ahead of NAFTA negotiations

An active cabinet is key to Canada’s new approach to U.S. relations, say former diplomats, current Parliamentarians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe during a Q&A session with governors after his keynote address to the National Governors Association last week in Providence, R.I.Photograph courtesy of the PMO

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, July 19, 2017 12:00 AM

Canada’s “full court press” on U.S. relations is one coordinated from the top and taken up by MPs of all political stripes ahead of North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations expected to begin next month.

“Our strategy is quite simply to work at all levels. We are doing everything reasonably possible to expand our relationship with the United States at every level,” said Liberal MP Wayne Easter (Malpeque, P.E.I.), who is co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.

He, like other Canadian officials, pushed back against reports that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) is going around Donald Trump’s White House, pointing to the bilateral meeting with vice-president Mike Pence that coincided with Mr. Trudeau’s speech to governors on July 14 in Rhode Island.

“We continue to work constructively with the Trump administration and with the United States Congress to advance mutual interests as well as our strong and prosperous partnership,” said Adam Austen, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.), in an emailed statement.

Since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, there have been more than 175 visits and “300 individual contacts” with senior U.S. officials and Canadian cabinet members, parliamentary secretaries, premiers and provincial and territorial ministers and Parliamentarians, according to data sent Monday by Ms. Freeland’s office.

Some 28 cabinet ministers and five parliamentary secretaries represent 95 of those interactions. Meetings have been with Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence, 17 U.S. cabinet members, 200 members of Congress, and more than 45 governors and lieutenant governors, with numbers expected to grow in the coming weeks, the office added. Washington represented the vast majority of meetings with 78, followed by New York with 18, and several spots in California made up eight visits.


U.S. NAFTA objectives released

Monday’s late-day announcement of negotiating objectives for the NAFTA by the United States Trade Representative started the next phase of the NAFTA talks, said Paul Frazer, a former high-level diplomat at Canada’s embassy in Washington.

“At this stage we can guess about the public role many in the Congress will choose to have. All-in-all I am confident that the Canadian advocacy work in the U.S. will need to be maintained and adjusted where necessary,” said Mr. Frazer, president of PD Frazer Associates who advises clients on cross-border issues.

“Including deficit reduction as a U.S. goal signals that the president and his rhetoric will unavoidably be prominent; Ottawa and Mexico City will have to manage two tracks: the negotiation itself and the impact of the president’s actions/statements over the course of the negotiations.”

Export Action Global principal Adam Taylor highlighted several areas that “provide a key line of sight into the Trump administration’s thinking,” including: its fixation on trade deficits; sensitivities in agricultural trade; enshrining ‘Buy American’ policies; and raising Canada’s de minimis threshold, a rule that slaps customs and duties on imported goods worth more than $20.

“While there are very few surprises, it is now clear that one person’s tweak is another’s transformation,” he said by email.

Canada will be ready for negotiations to “modernize NAFTA, while defending Canada’s national interest and standing up for our values,” said Ms. Freeland in a statement Monday.

“Canada is the top customer of the United States. Canada buys more goods from the U.S. than China, Japan, and the United Kingdom combined.”

That messaging reflected Mr. Trudeau’s address at the National Governors Association meeting Friday—a first for a Canadian leader.


Personal relationships key to U.S. strategy

Mr. Trudeau’s reception in Providence is one sign that Canada’s message—as America’s “biggest and best” customer—is being noticed, and that the nation is less of an afterthought, said an official in Ms. Freeland’s office who said they could only speak on background.

Standing ovations at the summit, and the number of people who recognized Canada’s prime minister, speak to the work done to build ties recently, the source said.

The month before, Canada sent Andrew Leslie (Orléans, Ont.), parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister, to the Western Governors’ Association meeting.

The official didn’t confirm whether specific ministers were handed regional assignments, as reported by Vice News in May, but said some are a natural fit given their industries, like Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains’ (Mississauga-Malton, Ont.) connections to Michigan and its established auto and aerospace industries.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said face-to-face interactions were the most effective form of free trade advocacy.

“It’s a contact sport,” said Mr. Robertson. “Personal relationships are everything.”

“There have been a whole series of efforts that [go] beyond traditionally how we approached the administration,” he said, adding there have been more minister-level meetings, such as those between Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.) and his counterpart U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin in February and again in June, accompanied by Ms. Freeland.

It was a smart strategy by Ms. Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) to meet with U.S. officials before their respective policy speeches in February, he added. 

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s (Regina-Wascana, Sask.) effort to build a relationship with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, the first of Trump’s cabinet to come north, was also crucial, he said.

“The homeland security side is really important, because that’s Trump’s base and so that relationship is very important,” he said, noting Mr. Kelly met with other key ministers.

An unusually large number of American officials are deciding they should make the trip north, Mr. Robertson noted. Recently Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said he’d visit Canada this summer, leading a delegation of government and business representatives.

“I can’t think of a time when we’ve had that many in that short a period,” said Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Bains is one Canadian minister who has “undertaken significant outreach,” said spokesman Karl Sasseville—most notably in Michigan, Colorado, and California. And, while Mr. Trudeau was in Rhode Island, Mr. Bains met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who has also met with Ms. Freeland to discuss issues like softwood and steel.

Mr. Bains has met with business leaders, governors, and other elected officials where he “[insisted] on the mutually-beneficial nature of the Canada-U.S. trade relationship,” said Mr. Sasseville.

The 10 other cabinet offices contacted deferred questions about their minister’s role to Global Affairs Canada’s Mr. Austen.


PMO briefing Parliamentarians

Ms. Freeland accompanied the prime minister to Providence, as did Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose government has fought against Buy American rhetoric, stressing the impact Canada has on various state economies, and warning that protectionist trade measures will harm more than help.

Global Affairs has helped to brief members of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group attending bilateral meetings with the latest issues and messages from the communications branch of the Prime Minister’s Office, said Mr. Easter,

The PMO has also launched an unprecedented U.S.-relations ‘war room,’ led by Brian Clow, Ms. Freeland’s former chief of staff when she was international trade minister.

Conservative Senator Bob Runciman was among the group in Rhode Island last week, and said he’s also seen more attention paid to Canada-U.S. relations.

“It’s simply more a sense of urgency and a higher priority, given some of the things president Trump has said and veiled threats, if you will, in respect to tearing [NAFTA] up. I think there’s a real full court press,” he said.

He said there’s a real “team feeling” to the meetings, and agreed it was a good idea for Mr. Trudeau to reach out to governors, noting several key cabinet secretaries came from those ranks.

‘Canada is back’, la política exterior de Justin Trudeau

‘Canada is back’, la política exterior de Justin Trudeau


Justin Trudeau y el ministro de Defensa de Canadá (en el centro), Harjit Sajjan, durante la Cumbre de la OTAN del 25 de mayo en Bruselas. GOBIERNO DE CANADÁ\

Internacionalista constructivo, el primer ministro canadiense ha recuperado los activos tradicionales de Canadá, centrándose en la defensa del clima, de la mujer y de un comercio diversificado. Su mayor reto es gestionar con tacto y firmeza la relación con EEUU.

Las expectativas eran altas cuando, tras ganar las elecciones de octubre en 2015, Justin Trudeau prometió a los canadienses que restauraría los “caminos soleados” y el crecimiento de la clase media. El primer ministro anunció al mundo “Canada is back” (Canadá ha vuelto). Prometió una política exterior “constructiva y compasiva”, con un regreso al multilateralismo y el foco en el clima, la emigración y la desigualdad. La administración de Donald Trump –proteccionista, populista y unilateralista– supone ahora el mayor reto para el gobierno de Trudeau. Gestionar al Tío Sam –la relación con Estados Unidos es la más importante para Canadá– ha puesto a prueba a los gobiernos canadienses desde el momento de la Confederación, hace ahora 150 años.

En su mayor parte, el primer ministro Trudeau ha cumplido sus promesas respecto a la política exterior. En estos casi dos años de gobierno, la marca internacional de Canadá ha mejorado. Pese a que los canadienses piensan que el mundo es un lugar más peligroso, depositan una gran confianza en la habilidad de Trudeau para gestionar los asuntos internacionales. Pero al mismo tiempo que Canadá celebra su 150 aniversario, Trump presenta un reto personal para Trudeau, al que ha de enfrentarse correctamente.


El método Trudeau y su mensaje

Tan solo unas semanas después de asumir el cargo, Trudeau participó en cuatro cumbres internacionales: la de la Commonwealth en Malta, el G-20 en Turquía, el Foro de Cooperación Económica Asia Pacífico (APEC) en Manila, y la Conferencia de París sobre el Clima. Ganó aplausos por su encanto personal e impresionó a los líderes extranjeros con su capacidad de escucha. En París, Trudeau y su equipo abrazaron la necesidad de una acción por el clima y trabajaron constructivamente para alcanzar el consenso que dio lugar al acuerdo internacional.

En el tradicional Discurso desde el Trono, por parte del Gobernador General (representante de la reina Isabel II) en la apertura de la nueva legislatura, están recogidas las prioridades del gobierno:

– Reforzar su relación con los aliados, “especialmente con nuestro amigo y socio cercano, EEUU”.

– Centrar la ayuda al desarrollo en la prestación de asistencia a los más pobres y vulnerables del mundo.

– Negociar acuerdos comerciales beneficiosos y perseguir otras oportunidades con mercados emergentes.

– Renovar el compromiso con las operaciones de mantenimiento de la paz de las Naciones Unidas, así como continuar la lucha contra el terrorismo.

– Revisar las capacidades existentes de defensa e invertir en la construcción de un ejército más ágil y mejor equipado.


Multilateralismo y los refugiados sirios

El multilateralismo, sustituido por el anterior primer ministro Stephen Harper y su gobierno conservador por “avanzar para llevarse bien”, ha vuelto. Como expresó Trudeau en la Asamblea General de la ONU en 2016, “eso significa reengancharse a los asuntos globales mediante instituciones como la ONU” (…) “estamos aquí para ayudar”, incluyendo asumir un papel de liderazgo en el reasentamiento de refugiados.

En contraste con el gobierno de Harper, Trudeau prometió durante la campaña electoral proporcionar un hogar a 25.000 refugiados sirios. En enero de 2017, más de 40.000 habían encontrado su nueva casa en Canadá y el primer ministro nombró a un refugiado somalí, Ahmed Hussen, ministro de Inmigración, Refugiados y Ciudadanía.


Política exterior feminista

El empoderamiento de la mujer es un asunto central de la política de Trudeau, en el territorio nacional y en el extranjero. A la pregunta sobre las razones que explicaban por qué la mitad de su gabinete estaba constituido por mujeres, incluyendo a la primera ministra de Justicia de origen indígena, Jody-Wilson-Raybould, y una refugiada afgana, Maryam Monsef, responsable del ministerio de la Mujer, Trudeau respondió: “Porque estamos en 2015”.

Tras consultar a más de 15.000 personas de 65 países, el gobierno canadiense publicó la Política de Asistencia Internacional Feminista como parte del conjunto de medidas de política exterior en junio de 2017. Afirmando que “los derechos de las mujeres son derechos humanos” y que el primer ministro y su gabinete eran todos feministas, la ministra de Asuntos Exteriores, Chrystia Freeland, declaró que tales derechos, incluyendo abortos legales y seguros “se encuentran en el núcleo de nuestra política exterior“. Estas medidas hay que entenderlas en el contexto de la decisión de la administración Trump respecto a la retirada de los fondos a las agencias de la ONU que apoyan el aborto. Así, en el Día Internacional de la Mujer, Trudeau anunció una inversión de 650 millones de dólares destinada a financiar proyectos de la ONU para educación sexual, servicios de salud reproductiva, planificación familiar y el uso de anticonceptivos.

La nueva, y feminista, política internacional de ayuda se marcó seis objetivos: igualdad de género y empoderamiento de las mujeres y niñas; un crecimiento que funcione para todo el mundo; acción respecto al medio ambiente y el clima; una gobernanza inclusiva; paz y seguridad, incluyendo un mayor papel de las mujeres en operaciones de paz; tolerancia cero hacia la violencia sexual y el abuso por parte de las fuerzas de paz. Las nuevas medidas, que se alinean con los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible de la ONU (ODS) y el Acuerdo de París sobre el Clima están encaminadas a asegurar que al menos el 95% de la ayuda exterior canadiense se destina a la mejora de las condiciones de vida de mujeres y niñas.

Finalmente, la política exterior feminista de Trudeau incluso ha logrado el respaldo del presidente Trump, que acogió una reunión de mujeres emprendedoras de los dos países durante la visita del primer ministro a EEUU en febrero de 2017. Trump también hizo referencia a esta iniciativa en su declaración conjunta ante el Congreso.


Gestionar al Tío Sam

Si bien todos los líderes mundiales comparten la preocupación por la seguridad y el crecimiento económico nacional, los primeros ministros canadienses hacen frente, además, a retos adicionales respecto a la unidad nacional y las relaciones con EEUU. En su único discurso sobre política exterior previo a su elección, Trudeau prometió “un cambio en las relaciones entre EEUU y Canadá”. Reconoció la sabiduría del primer ministro conservador Brian Mulroney (1984-93) por haber identificado la gestión de estas relaciones bilaterales como un deber clave de su cargo.

Desde su llegada, Trudeau estableció una relación de confianza con Barack Obama respecto al cambio climático y compartían un compromiso con el internacionalismo liberal progresista. El conocido “bromance” fue visible durante la visita de Trudeau a la Casa Blanca en marzo de 2016, así como en la visita de Obama a Ottawa tres meses después en la “Cumbre de los Tres Amigos”.

Las relaciones con México, el tercer amigo, se restauraron en junio de 2016, cuando Trudeau cumplió su promesa de levantar la restricción de visados impuesta por el gobierno de Harper. El levantamiento está incluido en el enfoque conjunto de Canadá y México para las próximas negociaciones en el Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (Nafta, en inglés).

La victoria de Trump, con campaña proteccionista y populista recogida en su “América primero”, forzó a Trudeau a reajustar su gobierno y priorizar las relaciones con EEUU. Esto explica que en enero la hasta entonces ministra de Comercio Internacional, Chrystia Freeland, se convirtiera en ministra de Asuntos Exteriores, conservando la responsabilidad sobre el comercio norteamericano. Freeland junto al ministro de Defensa, Harjit Sajjan, y el de Finanzas, Bill Morneau, viajaron a Washington para conocer a sus homólogos en la nueva administración Trump. Es importante destacar que realizaron una visita al Capitolio donde se reunieron con líderes destacados del Congreso. Trudeau pronto seguiría esta iniciativa con una visita de trabajo al presidente Trump. El acuerdo sobre un programa para el futuro incluía aumentar las economías compartidas, la seguridad energética, medio ambiente, seguridad fronteriza, aliados en el mundo y el empoderamiento de las mujeres emprendedoras.

Desde entonces ha habido un tránsito constante hacia el sur por parte de los ministros de Trudeau, dirigentes provinciales y legisladores de todos los niveles, y no solo a Washington, sino también al resto de EEUU. Es evidente que el foco se ha centrado en el país de Trump. El mensaje que se transmite es el siguiente: Canadá es un aliado fiable, un socio comercial leal, y el comercio y la inversión canadienses crean empleos en EEUU. La energía canadiense alimenta la economía estadounidense y mantendrá el renacimiento energético norteamericano prometido por Trump.

Aunque tales esfuerzos no han sido probados aún, según New York Times, “a diferencia de cualquier otra cosa intentada por otro aliado, la campaña silenciosamente audaz para persuadir, contener y, si fuera necesario, coaccionar a los estadounidenses (…) ha tenido éxito en gran medida (…)”.
Declaración de política exterior y revisión de defensa

La relación con EEUU estuvo en el corazón del discurso sobre política exterior de la ministra Freeland de junio de 2017, que estableció las prioridades de Canadá. Presentado ante el Parlamento de Canadá, el discurso fue en muchos aspectos una evocación “de regreso al futuro” de los principios de la diplomacia pearsoniana que caracterizaron la política canadiense durante gran parte del periodo de posguerra. Canadá está buscando un asiento en el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU, declaró Freeland, “porque queremos ser escuchados”.


Ante la crisis de confianza en la globalización, Canadá apuesta por apoyar a la clase media y a quienes quieren entrar en ella


La ministra reafirmó la posición del país como una “potencia media” con un “gran interés en un orden internacional basado en reglas. Uno en el que el poder no tendría siempre la razón. Uno en el cual los países más poderosos están limitados en su trato con los más pequeños por estándares que son internacionalmente respetados, aplicados y mantenidos”. Freeland identificó dos desafíos globales primordiales:

En primer lugar, la rápida aparición de potencias del Sur y Asia –preeminentemente China– y la necesidad de integrar a estos países en el sistema económico y político mundial, de manera que se preserve lo mejor del viejo orden que precedió a su ascenso, pero que a su vez aborde la amenaza existencial del cambio climático.

En segundo lugar, un agotamiento en Occidente de la creencia entre los trabajadores y la clase media de que el sistema globalizado puede ayudarles a mejorar sus vidas. Estamos ante una enorme crisis de confianza, que tiene el potencial, si lo permitimos, de socavar la prosperidad global. La clave para abordar esos problemas, según Freeland, es proporcionar a la clase media, y a quienes quieren incorporarse a ella, un mayor apoyo y un enfoque que en Canadá incluye la acogida del multiculturalismo y la diversidad.

Reconociendo el papel “indispensable” que desempeña EEUU en la preservación del orden mundial, la ministra identificó los múltiples frentes de la relación bilateral: “desde la seguridad fronteriza, a la defensa de Norteamérica a través del Mando Norteamericano de Defensa Aeroespacial (Norad), la lucha contra Daesh, los esfuerzos en la OTAN, el fomento y la mejora de la relación comercial, que es la más fuerte en el mundo”. A diferencia de anteriores gobiernos liberales, Freeland fue muy clara sobre la prioridad en la defensa. La ministra denunció sin ambages a Rusia respecto a la invasión de Ucrania y afirmó que la OTAN y su artículo 5 están en el corazón de la política de seguridad nacional de Canadá. “El uso de la fuerza con principios”, declaró Freeland, “junto con nuestros aliados y gobernados por el Derecho Internacional, es parte de nuestra historia y debe ser parte de nuestro futuro”.

El gobierno de Trudeau, según Freeland, hará las “inversiones necesarias en el ejército, no solo para reparar años de insuficiencia de fondos, sino también para poner a las fuerzas armadas canadienses en una nueva base, con el equipo, la capacitación, los recursos y una financiación consistente y predecible para poder llevar a cabo un trabajo difícil y peligroso”. Confiar únicamente en el paraguas de EEUU haría de Canadá un “estado cliente”, en palabras de Freeland.

Al día siguiente, el ministro de Defensa Sajjan anunció la nueva política de defensa, “fuerte, segura y comprometida”: fuertes en casa, seguros en Norteamérica y comprometidos con el mundo. El énfasis en el propio país, en América del Norte y después en el mundo es consistente con el enfoque canadiense. Entre los compromisos específicos en materia de defensa, Sajjan indicó los siguientes: aumentar el gasto en defensa del 1% al 1,4% del PIB para 2024; adquirir 88 aviones de combate avanzados para reemplazar a los viejos CF-18, y la construcción de 15 navíos de combate para sustituir a las fragatas existentes y a los destructores retirados; aumentar las fuerzas regulares entre 3.500 y 71.500 soldados, y las reservas entre 1.500 y 30.000, además de reducir el tiempo de reclutamiento de meses a semanas; aumentar la presencia de mujeres en las fuerzas armadas en un punto porcentual al año hasta alcanzar el 25% en 2026.

Los críticos de la política exterior de Trudeau sostienen que el gasto en defensa sigue siendo inadecuado en relación con los aumentos prometidos, y que están por debajo del compromiso del 2% del PIB marcado por la OTAN. No se hizo referencia a si Canadá se uniría a la defensa de misiles antibalísticos, tal como recomendó por unanimidad el Comité de Defensa Nacional del Senado en 2014. Tampoco se precisó en qué momento el gobierno debería cumplir con su compromiso de agosto de 2016 de enviar 600 soldados a operaciones de paz.

En lo que respecta a ayuda al desarrollo, Canadá actualmente destina el 0,26% del PIB en ayuda extranjera, lejos del objetivo de la ONU de alcanzar el 0,7% establecido por el gobierno de Lester Pearson en la década de los sesenta. La directora del Consejo Canadiense para la Cooperación Internacional, Julia Sánchez, expresó: “no entendemos cómo se va a lograr esa meta sin nuevos fondos”.


La búsqueda del compromiso

Los canadienses son gente progresista pero también prudente. Son liberales acerca de cuestiones sociales pero tienden al conservadurismo cuando se trata de la gestión de su dinero. Como pueblo, y debido a su clima, recursos, geografía y demografía, los canadienses se sienten obligados a encontrar consenso y compromiso. Sus recursos, ricas tierras de cultivo y grandes cantidades de energía, incluidos combustibles fósiles, son las joyas de la familia, pero la sostenibilidad del país y del entorno requiere cuidado y conservación.

Canadá es el segundo país más extenso del mundo, abarca 4,5 zonas horarias y posee la costa más larga del mundo. Todo esto exige mucha innovación e ingeniería para desarrollar comunicaciones marítimas, así como unas infraestructuras de transporte duraderas.

Uno de cada cinco canadienses nace fuera de Canadá. En nuestra ciudad más grande, Toronto, ese número se eleva a la mitad de la población. Una gestión eficaz del pluralismo es vital para la buena gobernanza. Como ciudadanos del mundo, pero de una forma más acentuada que la mayoría de las nacionalidades, el sentido de identidad de los canadienses deriva de cómo son percibidos por el resto del mundo. Ellos quieren ser, y quieren ser vistos, como internacionalistas constructivos y, por tanto, desempeñan un papel de puente, eje y figura útil en la resolución y gestión de los asuntos globales. Estas son las realidades que el primer ministro Trudeau debe manejar en beneficio de Canadá.

Desde la Confederación, la política exterior canadiense se ha construido alrededor de la realidad de vivir con el Tío Sam; en el pasado una amenaza pero durante más de un siglo un amigo y aliado, cuyo mercado sostiene la prosperidad canadiense y cuyo paraguas de seguridad nos protege.

Para mitigar la poderosa influencia cultural y económica de EEUU, los sucesivos gobiernos canadienses han adoptado la seguridad colectiva como estrategia de defensa, el multilateralismo en política exterior y la diversificación comercial. Estas opciones han respondido a la búsqueda del equilibrio, algo especialmente necesario con la administración Trump. La renegociación del acceso preferente al mercado estadounidense es la máxima prioridad de Trudeau porque reconoce que de ello depende la prosperidad canadiense.

Justin Trudeau y Donald Trump son polos opuestos en asuntos como el clima, la migración y el multilateralismo. Pero Trudeau sabe que la única relación primordial es aquella que mantiene con el presidente de EEUU. La pretensión de encontrar un terreno común con Trump sobre la creciente clase media y abordar la desigualdad está funcionando, pero pasará por distintas pruebas en el futuro.
Como sir Wilfrid Laurier, el primer primer ministro liberal de Canadá que popularizó el concepto “caminos soleados”, Trudeau es carismático y un activista natural. Si puede cumplir su promesa y satisfacer el sentido de soberanía de los canadienses, entonces, al igual que Laurier, Trudeau mantendrá la confianza de los canadienses en su líder.

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G20 Summit in Hamburg

CBC Commentary on G20 http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/987012163968

A Canadian Primer to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7-8, 2017


Image credit: Germany G20 Website

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice President and Fellow
July, 2017


Table of Contents


This Thursday and Friday, the leaders of the major economic nations, their finance ministers and central bankers meet in Germany’s northern port city of Hamburg,

birthplace of their host, Chancellor Angela Merkel. It’s their 12th summit to discuss global economic and financial issues.

The summit cannot ignore geopolitics. Conflict continues in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Central Africa. Renewed famine ravages the Horn of Africa. Russia still occupies parts of Ukraine. China is using its muscle to push its claims to the South China Sea. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un improves his nuclear weaponry. Refugees from Africa and the Middle East continue to stream into Europe.

Yet, on the economic front the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (April 2017) projects a pick-up in global economic activity with a long-anticipated cyclical recovery in investment, manufacturing and trade. But in Europe, there are uncertainties posed by Brexit and continuing joblessness, especially youth unemployment in southern Europe. Protectionism continues to threaten, most vocally from President Donald Trump, who has also withdrawn the U.S. from the global climate accord.


Who and What is the G20?

The G20, originally a meeting of finance ministers, their deputies and central bankers, was formed in 1999 in the wake of the Asian and Russian financial crisis with Canada’s then-Finance minister Paul Martin playing a lead role. It was raised to the leaders’ level in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis when then-U.S. president George W. Bush convened a summit in Washington (November 2008) to address the crisis. Canada hosted the G20 in Toronto in 2010.

The leaders’ summit is the culmination of a year-long process of meetings that in addition to the central bankers, finance ministers and sherpas, includes sessions involving labour, business, think tanks, youth, girls (Belinda Stronach was a driving force behind the Girls20 summit) and civil society.

The member countries include the G7 nations: Canada, the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. With two-thirds of the world’s population, their economies account for approximately 80 per cent of world trade and global production.

The heads of the IMF and World Bank participate, as do the heads of the European Union and European Commission and the head of the European Central Bank. Other national leaders are invited to discuss specific topics such as development.


The G20’s Standing Agenda

The G20 has developed a de facto standing agenda.

First, the multilateral trading system. Expect words from leaders but there is no sense the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha round will soon be concluded. Today, movement on multilateral trade rests with efforts to resuscitate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a series of smaller regional groupings, including the pending Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and a possible Japan-EU free trade agreement.

Second, resistance to protectionism. Global Trade Alert reports that, notwithstanding the G20 pledge for standstill at the London 2010 summit, since 2008 governments have taken 7,815 protectionist measures ranging from local content requirements to discriminatory regulatory practices.

The G20 nations account for 65 per cent of protectionist measures but the good news is that there has been a sharp decline in such measures in 2016-17. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo urged G20 nations to “continue improving the global trading environment, including by implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force in February this year.”

Third, promoting international investment. Barriers to investment continue to plague G20 economies. Governments need to further open their economies.

Fourth, achieving sustainable fiscal policy. This means saving in good times so you can spend in recession and then get back to balance as quickly as possible.

Fifth, supporting sustainable development. With the conclusion of the Millennium Development plan in 2016, nations are now committed to 17 goals in the new UN Sustainable Development Agenda to be achieved by 2030, including no poverty, gender equality, good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, reduced inequalities, decent work and economic growth.


What does the Hamburg summit want to achieve?

Merkel has set out her priorities. Leaders must address three questions:

  • How can we co-operate better in the future for the sake of our citizens?
  • What fears and challenges are associated with globalization, and what can we do to address these?
  • How can we safeguard inclusiveness and ensure that the fruits of prosperity and growth are distributed fairly?

In addition to the economic challenges, Merkel calls for a broad-based civil society dialogue on digitalization, effective climate protection policy and global health crisis management.

Build resilience, improve sustainability, assume responsibility – the leaders are expected to act on these three aims to:

  • Strengthen economic resilience
  • Strengthen the international financial architecture
  • Further develop financial markets
  • Make taxation fair and reliable internationally
  • Deepen co-operation on trade and investment
  • Protect the climate and advancing sustainable energy supply
  • Implement the 2030 agenda
  • Seize opportunities of digital technology
  • Promote health
  • Empower women
  • Address displacement and migration
  • Intensify partnership with Africa
  • Combat terrorist financing and money laundering
  • Fight corruption
  • Improve food security

These items are all likely to be reflected in the communique, no matter how wishy-washy the language.


What about deliverables from Hamburg?

Don’t expect a lot.

Perhaps the most we can expect is agreement to address inequalities, at home and abroad, in the face of the continuing domestic populist movements.

Merkel, with support from new French President Emmanuel Macron, wants further climate action. The German environment department has published a fact check on Trump’s climate statements. Trump is not likely to support further action and, by tradition, G20 decisions are made by consensus.

Trump promises to be the wild card at the summit, having already clashed with his fellow leaders at the NATO and G7 summits earlier this year over defence spending, trade, climate and refugee policy. Unhappy with foreign steel and aluminum imports, Trump is now considering raising tariffs on all imported steel to the alarm of Europe and Canada.

Most of the action will be at the bilateral level. It will be the first meeting between Trump and President Vladimir Putin and it is reported that Trump wants a set of deliverables to offer to the Russian president. Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Russia and Germany prior to the visit to discuss the new Silk Road and Belt – land and sea trade route – initiative from China through South Asia, Central Asia and then Europe. EU and Japan trade negotiators are working to conclude free trade negotiations in time for the summit. The German decision to block a rally of Turkish citizens working in Germany with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make for an interesting discussion with Merkel. Putin may also be called out over Russian interference in the U.S. and European elections.

As is always the case at these summits, security will be paramount with an estimated 20,000 police with dogs, horses and helicopters and 7.8 kilometres of steel barriers to prevent disturbances but also to contain the perennial protesters.


Image credits: Getty Images/Morris MacMatzen


Canadian Objectives

This is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s third G20 summit. A contender for Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) “hottie” with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto at his first summit (2015), Trudeau is now seen as an experienced leader (third in G7 seniority), a constructive internationalist and someone who is managing well his relationship with Trump.

According to the PMO and Global Affairs releases on the G-20, Mr. Trudeau will “promote inclusive economic growth, progressive international trade, gender equality, action on climate change”, and reiterate Canada’s commitment to working with partners to develop a co-ordinated global response to terrorism while safeguarding human rights.

Trudeau wants to move on CETA. It is delayed from its originally anticipated July 1 provisional implementation because of interpretive disputes around the allocation of Canadian cheese imports and brand-name drugs.

There will be discussions on the TPP with Asian and Latin American partners, and the approaching renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Trump and Peña Nieto.


Do we really need a G20?

Yes. At a time when globalization, the maintenance of a liberal international order and multilateral co-operation are under question, the G20 is an important forum to discuss, and hopefully advance, common global interests.

The G-20 filled a gap in the architecture of top table meeting places at the UN and G7.

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the U.S. – represent the world of 1945 and the early Cold War. As we witness with Syria and other crises, getting the Security Council to act constructively is very difficult. Reforming it is an exercise in futility.

The G7 group of leaders – the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada – was created in 1975-76 following the economic crisis that OPEC induced. It is Eurocentric. It doesn’t include China, India or Brazil. Russia joined in 1998 but it was suspended in 2014 after its invasion of Crimea.

The G-20 complements, at the leadership level, the work of the other major financial and economic institutions: the ‘Bretton Woods twins’ – the IMF and World Bank – and the World Trade Organization.

So, the G20 made sense. Like the G7, much of the value of the G20 is in its process.

More people will work on the draft of the final communiqué than will read it but the process of getting there is what really matters. The ongoing meetings between central bankers and finance ministers (the original G20) now include other ministerial meetings as well as regular discussions with business, civil society and think tanks.

What is important about these summits is not the prepared statements delivered at the main table, but the frank discussions and informal meetings that take place in the corridors and meeting rooms around the main conference. Winston Churchill, who popularized the word “summitry”, observed that “jaw-jaw” between leaders is better than “war-war”.


Further Reading

The best Canadian source for G20 documentation, with a chronology of past summits, is the University of Toronto’s G20 Information Centre, managed by John Kirton.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo does excellent research work on G2O issues, and especially noteworthy are recent reports on refugees, climate change and trade.

The official German site has useful information as does Global Affairs Canada.

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Trudeau speaking to U.S. Governors

Seeking U.S. ties apart from Trump, Trudeau will be first PM to address governors’ meeting

The prime minister’s address, which will focus on trade a month before crucial NAFTA talks are likely to begin, is part of his effort to build relationships with U.S. leaders outside of the Trump administration.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seen here at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany on Friday, will be the first Canadian Prime Minister to speak at the U.S. governors' conference in Rhode Island next week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seen here at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany on Friday, will be the first Canadian Prime Minister to speak at the U.S. governors’ conference in Rhode Island next week.  (Matt Cardy / GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—Seeking influence with U.S. leaders who are not President Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau will be the first Canadian prime minister to deliver a speech to a major conference of American state governors.

Trudeau will give the keynote address at the National Governors Association meeting in Providence, Rhode Island next Friday, just over a month before the expected opening of North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation talks.

Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

Trudeau’s address will focus on trade, his government said in a news release, and he “will also emphasize the importance of the Canada-U.S. partnership in cross-border security and the potential for common solutions on climate change.”

The address is part of Trudeau’s effort to build relationships with U.S. officials at the state and local levels. On the whole, state governors are far more pro-NAFTA than Trump, who calls the deal a “catastrophe.”

But the appearance will also give Trudeau another chance to make his trade case to Trump’s administration, with which his aides have been in frequent contact on trade. Vice-President Mike Pence is thought to be planning to attend, and economic officials may also be present.

Trudeau’s government described the attempt to build ties with governors as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, its healthy ties with the president’s team.

“Our government has worked hard to establish a constructive working relationship with all orders of the U.S. government, especially with the administration, and the president and his team directly,” said Trudeau press secretary Cameron Ahmad. He added: “The prime minister’s attendance at the National Governors Association summer meeting next week is part of that effort, and only builds upon our direct engagement with the administration.”Trump has alternated between praising the trade relationship and portraying Canada as an economic predator taking advantage of Americans. In his weekly radio address, released Friday, he said he is pursuing a “total renegotiation of NAFTA.”

“And if we don’t get it, we will terminate — that is, end NAFTA forever,” he said.

Association spokesperson Elena Waskey said Trudeau was invited to speak by the chair of the National Governors Association, Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and the vice-chair, Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, because of “the meeting’s strong international focus.”

Thirty-three of the nation’s 50 governors are Republicans.

Former diplomat Colin Robertson called Trudeau’s appearance a “smart tactic” that can only help Canada in NAFTA talks. Canada is the top export market for most of the states Trump won, he noted, and governors are “very conscious about trade and jobs generated by trade.”

“We are seeing governors talking about the importance of Canada-U.S. trade to their states,” Robertson said.

While Canadian federal governments have long pursued ties with U.S. state governments, Trudeau, confronted with a president skeptical of multilateral pacts and the international order more generally, has made sub-presidential connections a greater priority than his predecessors.

Canadian premiers and federal legislators regularly attend National Governors Association meetings, and Trudeau’s government has sent representatives. But no Canadian prime minister has spoken there since its founding in 1908, according to U.S. State Department records.

“Not in modern times have we had a sitting Canadian Prime Minister deliver a keynote address at either our winter or summer meeting,” Waskey said.

Trudeau signalled his intention to work with states on climate change in his June statement responding to Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

Comments Off on Trudeau speaking to U.S. Governors

Softwood Lumber and NAFTA Hearings

There’s no summer vacation for Canada on the trade file

Comments Off on Softwood Lumber and NAFTA Hearings

Managing US Relations under Donald Trump

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Chair (Hon. Robert Nault (Kenora, Lib.)):

Colleagues, it is 8:45, so everybody’s awake and raring to go.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are continuing our study of United States and Canadian foreign policy.

Today, we have in front of us Mr. Colin Robertson and Mr. Kim Nossal. Both of these gentlemen have great experience, so this will be a fun hour or so. We’re going to wrap it up around 10. I think Mr. Robertson has another appointment, and so do we, in the House, so that will fit perfectly into our schedule.


Mr. Colin Robertson (Vice-President and Fellow, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, As an Individual):

Thank you, Chair.

I spent most of my professional career working on Canada-U.S. relations for 33 years as a foreign service officer, with postings in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, and as a member of the teams that negotiated the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and then NAFTA. I’ve had the privilege of visiting every state in the union. I continue to be involved with the U.S. from the vantage point of business and think tankery. Let me start with a couple of observations.

First, for Canada, our international relationships will always be conditioned by our relationship with the United States. We cannot change our geography, nor would we want to. The U.S. is not only our most important ally and trading partner, but when we leverage personal relations and our role as bridge or linchpin, we also significantly enhance our diplomatic weight.

It was, for example, the U.S. that muscled us into the G7, in no small part because successive treasury secretaries, George Shultz and then Bill Simon, knew that then finance minister John Turner and external affairs minister Allan MacEachen brought value to the table. We gain when we play the role of explainer or interpreter of the U.S. to the rest of the world, especially during Republican administrations. At the same time, Allan Gottlieb observes in his Washington Diaries the starting point for anyone who wants to understand the practice of Canada-U.S. relations, namely, that when we are on our diplomatic game, our advice and insights into what the rest of the world is thinking are always welcomed by the United States.

Our smart immigration policy and the lessons of pluralism give us people-to-people links in every corner of the world to the benefit of our trade, investment, and tourism, and in marketing Canada as a place to study.

We’re also a great place from which to observe and get perspective on the United States. As Paul Evans recounts in Engaging China, that fact that we were somewhat independent and that Canada could play a middle-power role in bringing China in from the cold were major factors in the Chinese decision to take advantage of Pierre Trudeau’s invitation to open relations with Canada in 1971.

Other countries also appreciate the vantage point of Canada into the U.S.A. Know it or not, we get a better grade of diplomats in Ottawa than would otherwise be the case.

My second observation is equally obvious. Management of the relationship with the U.S. has become much more difficult with the Trump administration. With President Trump we encounter an administration unlike any we have encountered. It is nativist, protectionist, and unilateralist. Mr. Trump’s policy of America first, buy American, and hire American is cavalier treatment of the NATO alliance and G7. With his sweeping aside of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the European trade deal, and now the Paris climate agreement, we witness a radical departure from post-war American policies.

Mr. Trump’s musings are music to the ears of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, both of whom favour the return to a concert of great powers with spheres of influence. Thucydides long ago described this approach to international affairs: “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must“. The Athenians, who followed that maxim, came to a bad end, having alienated all of their allies. I am confident that, with different leadership, the U.S. will return to its traditional role as the anchor of the rules-based, liberal international system. As Churchill once remarked, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.”

But for now, the more America turns inward, the greater the requirement for Canada to broaden its foreign policy options and to deepen its investment in our diplomatic and defence capabilities and capacities. What middle powers like Canada cannot do is sit on the fence or play it safe. Canada, in league with other middle and like-minded powers who value representative government, human rights, and freer trade, needs to again step up and reassert our interests in sustaining and preserving the rules-based liberal international system. In practical sense, this means working in tandem with our European and Pacific partners.

Divide and conquer are key elements of Mr. Trump’s art of the deal, so staying especially close with Mexico, our friend and continental partner, will be critical as we renegotiate the North America economic accord with the U.S.

Canadian policy must begin with an activist international engagement strategy, with a special focus on the U.S. while simultaneously seeking to diversify our trade. This means getting our resources to tidewater so we can access world markets and get world prices. When you only have one market, it’s the buyer that sets the price. It will require investment. In dollar terms, we should set as goals of good international citizenship making a contribution of 2% of GDP to defence spending, the NATO norm, and 0.7% of GDP for development, the Pearson Commission standard. If the United Kingdom can mange it, so can we.

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word “crisis”. One brush stroke stands for danger, the other for opportunity. In crisis, be aware of the danger, but recognize the opportunity, so let’s look at the Trump challenge as an opportunity.


Let me share with you 10 rules of the road that we Canadians should apply in managing Mr. Trump and the U.S. relationship.

One, what is our ask? What will we give? Know our facts. Messaging must be blunt and on-point, and get to the point. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. If you still aren’t getting through, change your pitch. Practice and persistence make perfect, but remember it’s not a level playing field. When we play against the U.S., we have a better-than-even chance only when we are playing on ice, so we need to be very well prepared.

Two, we need to get our act together, within governments, with business, labour and civil society. The Americans will exploit our differences to our cost, as we are learning once again on softwood lumber. They will happily collect their import levy until we get our own act together. We’ve a good brand, but we need to develop it and use it more strategically. Keep in mind that Americans like us more than we like them, and that there are always more Americans who think like Canadians than there are Canadians. Margaret Atwood famously observed that, when Americans look north, it’s like looking into a mirror. They see a reflection of themselves; we see something different, but Canadians too often define themselves by what we are not—Americans. It’s an insecurity we need to get over.

Three, no surprises. Americans don’t mind differences, but they don’t like being blindsided, especially on security issues, like some feel we did on our participation of ballistic missile defence or on going into Iraq. The Americans don’t mind our taking a different tack, but they do want clear notice. Be careful with tit-for-tat: it may get us attention, but when you threaten to pull a trigger, be prepared to pull it and then suffer the consequences. For the same reason, be very careful with linkage between issues.

Four, personal relationships are everything. We would never have had the Canada–U.S. Free Trade Agreement but for Brian Mulroney’s relationship with Ronald Reagan. I applaud the efforts at the national level to have cabinet ministers and MPs from all parties travel to the U.S., especially into Trump territory, to remind their American counterparts just how much the Canadian relationship does to underpin local jobs.

The premiers and provincial legislators have a critical role. Their long-standing participation in the regional meetings of governors and state legislators are vital. For me, the best regional model is the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, PNWER, an association of business, legislators, and civil society that gets things done. The best functional model addressing supply chains in North American is NASCO. Both, incidentally, are based in the U.S. There are also a group of extremely useful trans-border business associations, like the Canadian American Business Council. At the state level the best-in-class is the Canada Arizona Business Council. Together, these assemblies of premiers, and governors, and legislators, and the regional, functional, and trans-border organizations constitute the hidden wiring that keeps our relationship greased and in working order.

Five, make it a U.S. issue and identify U.S. allies. That’s how we’ve gotten around various Buy American restrictions. Recently, for example, the U.S. acted against aluminum imports. The target was China, but as is often the case with U.S. protectionism, we get sideswiped. We make aluminum in Quebec. The workers are members of the United Steelworkers union. The Steelworkers are advocates of Buy American, but they consider their Canadian brothers and sisters to be family, so we got an exemption. It helps that their president, Leo Gerard, is a Canadian—a reminder that we need to make use of the international union ties between Canada and the U.S.

Our networks need a thousand points of contact. Pitching is retail and a contact sport, and as an icebreaker, knowledge of U.S. college football and basketball is very useful. When I was posted in the U.S., I would tell new arrivals that a good way to meet Americans, especially in red states, was to join a church or a gun club.

Six, Ottawa does not have all the answers. The provinces have competence and experience. Trust the staff at our missions in the U.S., the embassy and our consulates, for their read of the local environment. They know a lot and have a superb Rolodex of contacts.

Seven, the administration is our entry point, but the battleground is Congress and the states. We need to devote more attention to legislators, both in Congress and in the states. When we play in the U.S., play by their rules. In a relation that transacts over $1 million a minute in trade, we need to use lawyers and lobbyists. For legislators who must fundraise daily, all politics is local: special interests, business, labour, environmentalists, minorities represented by lawyers and lobbyists fund legislators and drive domestic policies like Buy American. Protectionism is as American as apple pie, a deep-rooted political response to structural problems in the U.S. economy.

Eight, beware of noise and don’t get spooked. We need to practise risk assessment and differentiate between what is real, a threat, and what is noise. A lot of what we’re hearing now and what we will hear in the coming weeks of congressional hearings on NAFTA is positioning. The Americans are masters at positioning and will exercise the excitable, and give editors a daily dose of dramatic headlines. Most congressional legislation fails, but we tend to behave like Chicken Little every time we see something we don’t like. Again, their system is different from ours, with checks and balances, and separation of power.


The bogeyman out there is the border adjustment tax. It’s a real threat, because it is endorsed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, but the Americans also recognize that, as in physics, for every action there is a reaction. If they adopt a border tax, so will we, and so will other nations. Going down that route with Smoot-Hawley contributed to the Great Depression.

Nine, go for gold. We are better than we think we are, but there is a Canadian tendency to compromise from the outset. An admiral trait, it is a natural reflection of our national character developed to come to terms with our vast geography and harsh climate. It makes us good diplomats, but compromising before we sit down is a mistake with the Americans. We should not out-negotiate ourselves beforehand. In other words, ask for what we really want rather than what we think they will give us. Nor should we ever expect gratitude in what we think we did for them. Business is business, and the business of America is business.

Ten, it’s a permanent campaign that needs all hands on deck—all levels of government, business, labour, and civil society. Canadians who have American friends and family and who spend time in the U.S. need to be enlisted. We need to engage more with Americans and start every conversation with three main messages. First, we are a reliable ally and security partner, although we do need to invest more in our armed forces. Second, we are a fair and trusted trading partner. Canada is the main market for 35 states and the second market for the rest. U.S. trade with Canada generates nine million jobs. It’s more than trade. It’s making things together through supply chains to our mutual advantage. My favourite factoid is that the average Canadian eats $629 worth of U.S. agrifood products annually. The average American spends $69 on Canadian agrifood products. And third, Canada is a secure, stable, and reliable source of energy. It lights up Broadway, keeps the cable cars going in San Francisco, powers the Mall of America in Minnesota, and fuels American manufacturing. With $2 billion in trade daily, Canada has only a slight surplus, because we provide 40% of U.S. energy imports. Otherwise, they enjoy the surplus.

An American ambassador once observed that Canadians think they know all about Americans, while Americans think they know all they need to know about Americans. We are both wrong. We need to know them better, because for now this relationship is asymmetrical. They matter more to us than we matter to them. For very good historical overviews, I would refer you to the good work, especially on middle powers, by Kim Nossal. I would also suggest you read Bob Bothwell’s Your Country, My Country, as well as Jack Granatstein and Norman Hillmer’s For Better or For Worse: Canada and the United States into the Twenty-First Century.

The rest of the world is watching how we manage Mr. Trump. We need to stick to our game, work with our partners, especially Mexico, and we will do just fine.

Thank you.

    Let me begin by thanking the committee for inviting me to participate in its examination of the impact of the Trump administration.

    It’s a particular pleasure to appear alongside my friend Colin Robertson. Given his diplomatic experience and expertise on the Canada-U.S. relationship, he will, I’m sure, provide a far more detailed perspective than the more general views I want to offer this morning.

    Rather than trying to address your list of very good questions, I’d like to offer some general observations on the relationship, which I hope will offer a useful frame for answering those questions when the committee comes to write its report. Your nine questions reflect a much broader question: how to frame Canadian policy when a new administration comes to power. This is a quadrennial question for Canadians, and an enduring one.

    In normal times we’d look at the administration, we’d look to the past, we’d reflect on the received wisdom of those who’ve offered perspectives on dealing successfully with the Americans, and we’d try to formulate a strategy for dealing with the new administration. But these are not normal times. As so many of the witnesses who’ve appeared before you have attested, we are entirely in uncharted territory with this administration. Certainly we can’t look to the past for guidance about dealing with this particular president. On the contrary, it’s worth stressing just how new, and indeed bizarre, the territory is.

    Let me begin with what I think is actually the most important feature of this administration from a policy process perspective. As you know, Americans have designed their system so that an incoming president can be confident that the vast administrative apparatus of the American state works for him and his agenda. But to do this, the new president has 4,000 holes to fill—just like in Blackburn, Lancashire—meaning those senior positions in the state apparatus that must be filled by presidential appointment, both with and without Senate confirmation, non-career senior executive service appointments, and so-called schedule C appointments. But 20 weeks into this administration, the American state under Mr. Trump looks like a sieve. The State Department is filled with holes. Scores of ambassadors need to be nominated. Not a single assistant secretary has been nominated for any of the geographical or functional areas. A similar situation exists in the Department of Defense. Just five of 53 positions have been confirmed. For 41 positions there are no nominees at all. In the trade area there are significant holes both in the Department of Commerce and in other executive agencies. This is bizarre and unprecedented. It’s new territory, not just for foreigners like us, but for Americans too.

    Layered onto this are other unprecedented features. Consider the following: when was the last time a president’s daughter and son-in-law occupied central roles in the administration despite a complete lack of experience in policy-making? When was the last time there was such a yawning disjuncture between the policy statements of the president on the one hand and the pronouncement of his cabinet secretaries on the other? When was the last time we saw an administration whose members are so openly at war with one another, a kind of bizarre cross between the House of Cards and Game of Thrones, with a little bit of The Americansthrown in for good measure.

    We’ve never seen an American president who knows so little about the world or about American foreign policy, but, importantly, who seems so indifferent about that lack of knowledge, so unwilling to actually learn something about American foreign policy. We’ve never seen an American president who has such a stunted view of world politics, such a lack of understanding about America’s historical place in the world, such an unwillingness to maintain the mantle of American global leadership and, indeed, such a willingness to cede that leadership to others in the international system. We’ve never seen an American president who cares so little for the norms of diplomacy that he does and says just what he wants without any apparent concern for the implications of his words or his actions. In short, what we are seeing, in my view, is completely unprecedented. I recite this well-known litany because these very attributes have huge implications for governments that have to deal with this administration.


    First, however, we need to ask whether what we have seen in the last 20 weeks will change. Conrad Black, when he testified before you on the May 4, assured you that there will be a settling down, as he put it, and that we will get back to a relatively normal government, even though he admitted that it would be a flamboyant government. Mr. Black knows Mr. Trump; I don’t. But I have to say I’m less optimistic than Mr. Black is. This is not a normal government. I see no evidence at all that Mr. Trump will settle into the presidency and become a normal president.

    My conclusion, mirroring that of the “Never-Trump” Republicans in the United States, is that there is no better Trump. He will always be the “covfefe” president, tweeting out idiocies and provocations at odd times of the day and night, chucking his insurgent hand grenades around with scant regard for the impact.

    Rather, what we are seeing is what we are getting, and will get, in my view, until Mr. Trump tires of being president and quits in a huff, which I think is the most likely end to all of this, or until Republicans in Congress tire of the Faustian bargain they struck with the insurgent forces that seized the Republican party in 2016 in a hostile takeover, and push him out. In other words, we could well see another 190 weeks just like the last 20 and, in my view, even more, beyond 2020 if the Democrats continue to be as tone-deaf to the electorate and lose elections as they have been losing at the federal, state, and local levels for the last number of years.

    So how should a rational Canadian government deal with what one of my colleagues, Stephen Saideman of Carleton University, has called the “uncertainty engine” that is Donald Trump?

    First, continue to deal in a straightforward way with the president and avoid the temptation to give vent to whatever frustration the administration may inspire. Prime Minister Trudeau has spoken eloquently about the importance of getting along with whomever Americans elect as their president. This, it seems to me, is very sound policy.

    At the same time, however, there should be no hesitation about pushing back when Canadian interests are threatened by Trump’s ideas, particularly when those ideas are grounded in alternative facts, as so many of them are. When Canada does push back, we should be clear-eyed about how the dysfunctions of this presidency could, and should, be used to Canadian advantage. The shambolic presidency that we have seen so far is likely to persist.

    Nonetheless, if one looks carefully at the American political environment, one can see that Mr. Trump actually faces huge obstacles in transforming his ideas into action. These obstacles include the huge holes that will likely continue to exist in those who actually run the American bureaucracy; Mr. Trump’s stunning ignorance of the American system of government, of his own system of government; the generally awful relationship between him and the Republicans in Congress; his own limited attention span; his persistent forgetfulness about what he has said; his laziness in refusing to learn about policy, which seems to make his posturing relatively easy to call; and finally, the checks and balances that were so presciently built into the American system of government by their founding fathers. All of these factors will conspire to ensure there will be massive gaps between his ideas on the one hand and actual policy implementation on the other.


     Moreover, we should recognize that the White House in general, and the president in particular, are increasingly isolated within the American body politic. Yes, there is his much-vaunted base, but the president’s general popularity is around 36%, and the spread between that and his disapproval rating is around 22 points.

    This means that Canadian officialdom—members of the federal government, members of Parliament, federal officials together with provincial and municipal officials in this country—have lots of opportunities to press their positions to their American counterparts even within the administration, not necessarily the president himself. This is particularly true, it seems to me, on the legislative side. Never before have interparliamentary links been as important for the pressing of Canadian interests as they are now. In short, this does not mean that Canada can avoid planning for the challenges that the president might throw out there, but it does suggest that we’re not entirely without some strong cards to play in defence of our interests.

    Thanks, Chair.


Thank you, Professor Nossal.

Thank you, Mr. Robertson.

    We’ll go straight to questions, and we’ll start with Mr. Kent, please.


Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    Thanks to you both for your attendance here today. It’s always stimulating to hear your insight and offered advice.

    First, with regard to Professor Nossal’s point about how governments deal with unprecedented situations, when the United States announced its withdrawal from the TPP, our government hit the pause button for reconsideration. That reconsideration of next steps is ongoing. When the United States announced its withdrawal from the Paris agreement, there was an immediate reaction to recommit immediately, without review and reconsideration of our interconnected economies and the impact of going it alone on the continent.

    I’m wondering if you could offer, Professor Nossal and Mr. Robertson, some thoughts on that.


Thank you very much for that question, Mr. Kent.

     I think the key here is to differentiate between these two accords. What the Canadian government did on the TPP was to indeed to pause, to wait for the reaction of others around the Pacific to see what would emerge from the general reaction of the other partners. This was largely because everyone, including, it seems to me, the Canadian government, recognized that the withdrawal from the TPP basically ceded the leadership, or the possible leadership, in the Asia-Pacific to China and the alternatives.

    When we look, though, a little further than the immediate reaction to how the Canadian government then responded, once it was clear from around the Pacific that in fact there was the possibility of going it alone minus the United States, we saw a rather different reaction from that initial pause. We saw the Canadian government stepping up and providing some degree, it seems to me, of leadership—which is actually ironic, given the course of Canadian engagement with the trans-Pacific partnership over the years.

    On the Paris accord, I think the Canadian government’s reaction was in line with the reaction of every other government in the world, bar only Syria. To me, it’s interesting that you hear in Nicaragua, the only other non-signatory, a desire to revisit their decision not to sign because Paris didn’t go far enough in their view.

    I think that the universality of the responses to the American decision—and it’s not simply the American decision, but how that decision was announced and how the Paris accord was portrayed by the President of the United States—drove the Canadian reaction as much as it drove the reaction of every other country I’m aware of.

    I must admit, I’m not entirely sure that the Canadian government has been overly limited in its response to the TPP, on the one hand, or overly incautious on the question of the Paris accord. Is the fact that the United States is out of the Paris accord going to create significant difficulties for Canada in the future? Yes, except for the fact that—and it’s one of the reasons I raised the issues I did—there is a considerable degree of opposition within the United States to the President’s own positions on this. That provides everyone, not only Canadians, but other foreign countries too, an opportunity to shift what the Americans actually do, not just simply what Mr. Trump says.



Mr. Robertson.


In terms of how the government has handled this, on both issues I would take it back to Brian Mulroney, who argued, I think correctly, that the most important relationship any prime minister has is that with the President of the United States. It’s something that I think Mr. Trudeau has taken on board. He made a reference to it in a speech before he became Prime Minister, and I think he’s practised that. They call it a “bromance” with President Obama. It’s obviously much more difficult with President Trump. I think he’s managed that very well by keeping it from becoming personal. Everything I’ve read in a psychological profile of Mr. Trump is that you do not want to take him on directly and personally because it will become personal, as you’ve seen how he’s behaved with the mayor of London, and probably will now with the….

    If you want to have an anti-Trump, let it be President Macron. It shouldn’t be Prime Minister Trudeau, because we have so many vested interests in the United States. I think Mr. Trudeau gets that, and that’s wise. The Canadian prime ministers who understand that do well for Canada.


In different ways both of you have mentioned checks and balances in our continental relationship. One issue you brought up was the original rejection by Canada of participation in the ballistic missile defence. More current today—and we may hear more about that tomorrow in the defence policy review and the decision one way or the other—would be to re-engage in our continental as well international defence treaties.

    With regard to the government’s pursuit of a free trade agreement with China, which the U.S. administration and President seem to see as the opening of a wider back door for dumping Chinese product in the United States, I’d like your comment on the advisability of either pausing the pursuit of this free trade agreement, which seems to be going ahead faster than anything else at the moment, or pausing to see how the renegotiation of NAFTA begins and seems to be setting a course.



My observation for Canada, as a middle power, would be to keep engaged with everyone. I am convinced that the engagement with China is going to take some time. As you know, Mr. Harper also wanted to engage, but it took a long time. I don’t think we’re going to move quickly with China, because I think we still have to do a lot of homework on our side.

     At the same time, for strategic reasons vis-à-vis North Korea, Mr. Trump seems to have decided to try to work out a relationship with Xi Jinping. The Americans can’t have it both ways, and ultimately Canada has to pursue its own interests, just as we did in 1971 when we opened the relationship with China.

    My view would be to proceed with caution and be very sure what we are seeking. There are lessons to be learned from the New Zealand and Australian examples of free trade. They have a bit of buyer’s remorse.

     I think we will proceed and should proceed, and are probably going at about the right speed, given our capacity. Remember that we do have capacity limits. The first priority of this government is going to be the renegotiation of the North American accord. There’s still the follow-up to be done with the Canada-Europe trade agreement. Then there’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We are stretched. Then of course there’s China and other things as well.

    You’re going to have a resource constraint that is naturally there, but at the same time trying to get our own act together is going to take some time.


Thank you, Mr. Robertson and Mr. Kent.

    We’re going to Mr. Sidhu, please.


    Thank you both for your remarks this morning.

    Mr. Kent touched on the NAFTA issue. Mr. Robertson, as you’re a former member of Canada’s NAFTA negotiation team, I would be curious if you would touch on the softwood lumber issue. You have said that Canada has won most disputes in front of the WTO, but at the same time you’re saying it’s not the solution. It has to be dealt with when it comes under the policies. Given your experience in diplomatic negotiation and the nature of the administration south of the border now, how confident are you that in the future this problem will be resolved?


Sir, I’m not that confident it will be resolved. When I was posted in the United States at one point with Ambassador Frank McKenna, he turned to me when we were getting into the negotiation that led to the 2006 accord and asked when all this started. I phoned a friend who was the Librarian of Congress, and he said it went back to the second George Washington administration, when Massachusetts, which then included Maine, was trying to keep out timber from New Brunswick for shipbuilding.

    This is a dispute with long antecedents. If you look at a topographical map of North America, we have a great advantage when it comes to wood, but it is for the small landowner particularly in the southeast who may live in a trailer park. It’s where they hunt and fish, and it’s their annuity. If you go down to the museum of timber in Jackson, Mississippi, you’ll see that they post the price of timber just the way a gas station posts the price of gas.

    I was told by a former American governor that we would resolve it, but we would resolve it on an incremental basis, so I’m afraid it’s going to take some time.

     The challenge within Canada, as I see it, is that we have four and a half positions. There’s a position in the Atlantic, in Ontario and Quebec. They’re similar. There’s a position in Alberta. Then in B.C. you have a division between the coastal and interior regions’ positions. Happily, we now have envoys from each of the provinces. I hope that the British Columbia government keeps David Emerson because he’s very smart and understands this stuff.



For Canada, why don’t we want to get to the negotiators today, if you want to…?


As Kim pointed out earlier, first of all, there’s nobody to negotiate with on the American side. At the United States trade representative’s office, which will be responsible for this, with support from the commerce department, there’s just nobody home right now. That’s part of our problem. It’s not aimed at Canada. It’s just that the Americans who we would like to deal with simply aren’t there in the state department and in the National Security Council, and this also applies.

    But we do actually have…. I think the first thing we should do is to get the envoys that have been appointed—Jim Peterson and Raymond Chrétien and others—to see if they can’t, first of all, work out the Canadian position, and then engage with the coalition.


Thank you.

    Professor Nossal, on the world stage, as you know, the United States’ soft powers are on the decline, and our partners in the European world, Germany and France, are becoming the face of the globe, if you want to say that. In your view, how does Canada configure into the new global reality?


That’s a good question.

    I think the argument about American soft power on the decline needs to be questioned a bit. In fact, in terms of the response to Mr. McMaster and Mr. Cohen’s denial of there being a global community and the rise of an administration that has indeed called into question the American-led liberal international order of the last 70 years, it seems to me that this response of the international community strongly suggests that American soft power is absolutely still there, and that it is the desire—the strong desire—of so many countries and peoples that the United States continue to exercise global leadership that reflects that soft power. It seems to me that, as Colin said, when this shifts—because I think it is going to shift—we are going to see the return of that soft power, which continues to exist.

    Canada’s role in the interim, it seems to me, is to try to provide leadership with other like-minded powers, in particular the Europeans in NATO. Also, we need to look to the Asia-Pacific in a way that we generally as Canadians tend not to do: by looking at like-minded powers across the Pacific, notably the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand and others, in particular Japan, to ensure that, in a sense, the elements of the American-led global order are managed in a kind of caretaker way until we see an end to the kind of nativist, isolationist, America-first perspective that is currently being articulated by the President of the United States.

    It really needs to be stressed that it’s the President articulating this. If you listen to the so-called adults in the room, as they’re called in Washington—Mr. Mattis, Mr. McMaster, and even Mr. Tillerson—what you find is essentially a willingness to continue the American global leadership of the last 70 years. The problem is that there’s a huge disjuncture between what the adults are saying and what Mr. Trump and some of his advisers, such as Stephen Bannon, are saying on the other hand.


Thank you.


Thank you, Mr. Sidhu.


     Ms. Laverdière, you have the floor.


    I want to thank our two witnesses for their excellent presentations. I’ll print them and keep them on my desk. I don’t know how many times I nodded my head.

    I greatly appreciate the mention of the 0.7% we must achieve and the fact that President Trump may decide one day that he has had enough and leave. I also consider this possible rather than probable.

    I want to keep talking about what we have just discussed, meaning the main issue, which I think the Minister will mention in the House this morning. I’m referring to Canada’s interest, as a middle power, in a multilateral system based on rules that work properly, and the current American administration’s threat in relation to several components of this system. The threat concerns not only policies, but often money as well.

     We’ve seen cuts to maternal health programs, and other things of that nature. The Netherlands has implemented great initiatives. It has produced funding to compensate for the American cuts. The withdrawals aren’t only in this area. The United States also wants to play a less prominent role in the WTO.

     My first and main question concerns the G7 meeting in Italy. How should we work with our partners to maintain the system in this situation? Do you have specific advice for all those who must prepare for the next G7 meeting, which will take place in Canada?



As Mr. Nossal said, to maintain the system, we must work with middle powers like Canada. Many people think like us, both here and in the United States. We have many allies in the United States, not only in Congress, but also in the administration, among the adults in the room.

     We saw this in the climate debate, for example. There was a real exchange of views in the White House. Unfortunately for us, the Trump administration decided that Mr. Bannon was more important than the others.

     We think we must use this time to become a leader among the middle powers. We have the opportunity to do so, and a prime minister who can do so. That’s the type of role I hope to see Canada play.



I think the question of middle-power leadership is a problematic one, mainly because in Canada there is a reluctance to embrace the ideas of middle-power leadership in those particular terms.

    As Colin suggested, even if we don’t talk about middle powers any longer—and Canadian leaders don’t like to talk about middle powers—the essence of trying to find positions that will garner support from other like-minded states is critical.

    This, it seems to me, means that we have to have a large-scale effort on the part of Canadian diplomats and Canadian politicians, both on the government and the opposition sides, to press the ideas that we have embraced so readily over the last 70 years or so as Canadians to remind others, to remind Americans, of the positive aspects of that order.



    I was also struck by an issue that we often discuss, but that we haven’t talked about much this morning. I was wondering whether you had specific views on the Russian scandal and on what will happen this week in Washington.



     I was wondering if you had any insight.


No more than I read in the newspapers.


That’s a very diplomatic answer.


We can see the training.


The diplomatic service in Canada made an excellent decision in 1974 in rejecting me—

    Voices: Oh, oh!

    Prof. Kim Nossal: —so I actually don’t have to be as diplomatic as Mr. Robertson does.

    I think the issue of the Russians and the Russian involvement in American politics is a story that has yet to be fully told. Despite the fact that there are strong forces in the United States seeking to squelch the story being told, I think there is a story there that will be told. It may well be a story that is intimately connected with the President’s tax returns, which have been so carefully protected from release.

    It seems to me, however, that we cannot ignore the fact that the interests of the Russian Federation, and in particular the President of the Russian Federation, have been well served by the election of Mr. Trump. The ability of the Russian Federation to sow some discord in the transatlantic alliance is something that will bring smiles to Mr. Putin’s face, as Colin said. On that issue, we will need to see what the results are.

    One of the consequences of Mr. Trump’s declaring war on the intelligence community in the United States is that, as many people have said—so this is not at all original—it is entirely possible that what we will see emerge in the next year or so will illuminate whether there is, in fact, a Russian connection.


Thank you, Madame Laverdière.

    Mr. Saini, please.


Good morning, gentlemen. Thank you very much for your opening comments.

    Mr. Robertson, I’m going to start with you, because you have the most experience with the Canada-U.S. trade file.

    One of the things you didn’t mention in your opening comments was the influence of the Mexican election next year. There was a very elegant timeline created by one of our previous witnesses, Mr. Carlo Dade, from the Canada West Foundation. What I gleaned from that timeline was that the earliest possible date, if everything works out well, the agreement would be signed, but not implemented, is August 28, 2018. That would be after the Mexican election.

    If you look at the current state of domestic politics in Mexico, the leading candidate there, Mr. Andrés Obrador, from the left-wing AMLO party, I don’t think is too keen on this deal.

    We’re putting a lot of emphasis on our bilateral negotiations with the United States, but we haven’t looked at the possibility of actually…. We will be entering into a trilateral negotiation, and we don’t talk about Mexico so much.

    My question to you is this. If Mexico decides not to sign, what will be the ramifications of that? Also, there will be congressional mid-term elections in November. There are a lot of things we don’t control. No matter how good our negotiating stance is, there might be factors beyond our control, ones that we don’t have any influence over. What would be the repercussions? What would be the ramifications? What do you see happening if Mexico does not sign?


I read Carlo’s testimony. He’s a friend of mine and the timeline he points out is accurate. If you think about it, trade negotiations take a long time. The original Canada-U.S. free trade agreement took us about four and a half years to negotiate, and NAFTA, which was, in a sense, building on the free trade agreement, took us two and a half years.

    The United States is only now in the legislatively mandated process of holding hearings in Congress, so the earliest they can begin is really mid-August. Do we think we can finish this up by Christmas? Given the breadth of the agreement, I’d be very doubtful, and again, as Carlo pointed out, there is a timeline that takes this forward.

     Ultimately, what is important for Canada is to get a good deal for Canada. I do think we should be working in tandem with Mexico. That partnership is very important and I’m encouraged to see that Foreign Minister Freeland has stated, with her counterparts Minister Videgaray for trade for Mexico and Minister Guajardo Villarreal, the intent to work together and that she has been down to Mexico recently to do this. We should stay together because the Americans would like—I wouldn’t say the American approach, but I would say the Trump approach is to divide and conquer.

    On NAFTA itself, NAFTA remains intact, so the Canada-Mexico piece of that stays in place. There’s nothing to stop us from upgrading it, if the United States pulls out. Also, there’s nothing to stop us from bringing other countries into that. This is why it will be interesting to see how the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations play out.

    Whatever happens, personal relationships really do count. The personal relationships now at the various levels between our negotiators, between Canadian and Mexican ministers, are strong enough that they will stay intact, even if, at the end of the day, the Americans insist on two separate bilateral negotiations, which is certainly the preferred approach of Mr. Trump. Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, has said it’s more important that we get a result than the format, so they seem to be wobbling a bit there, but we’re still not exactly sure how that’s going to play out. On the time frame, I do think the Mexican election is probably going to intervene. Whether the Mexicans will be in a position to do a deal quickly—there was talk of that back in January, but it didn’t pay off. Within Mexico, there will be a lot of suspicion as well, if there’s a quick deal done.

    Most important, for both Canada and Mexico, is that we get a good deal, whatever comes next.



The second question I have is more out of personal curiosity. The Americans have now left the climate change agreement. They have recused themselves from TPP, which was a bulwark designed by Obama against China, or to contain China. We have issues in the South China Sea. We have the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. We have the one belt, one road policy that’s happening now. We have the Chinese influence in Africa. For me, as a political observer, if you look at the commentary right now in the press, it’s more focused on Russia. However, the silent power that’s working behind the scenes is China, and for the first time in my life, I am witnessing no commentary about a rising power.

    I appreciate the fact that the President is the President, but the state department, other think tanks, other academics are not speaking about the relationship with China. Everybody is focused on this Russian relationship, but no one is actually keeping an eye on the Chinese relationship. I am wondering why there has been no focus on that because, for the last century, the Americans have always tried to be a rising power, but now China is on the move, so why is there no dialogue? Why is there no commentary on the Chinese question, as opposed to the Russian question, which is not as important as the media has portrayed it to be, in some cases?


This is trite, but empty vessels make the most noise. There really is a lot of attention behind the scenes on China. The Trans-Pacific Partnership really was an effort to secure a set of trade rules in the Pacific to match what was going on in the security side. Behind the scenes, there really is a lot going on, such as the dialogue last week at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue on the military front. I’ve just come back from Asia, where they are much more concerned about what’s taking place with regard to China than they are necessarily about Russia.

    I’d recommend a good book to read, Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century by Gideon Rachman, who is the lead foreign affairs correspondent for The Financial Times. It’s just out. I think that would address a lot of what you’re talking about.

    I do think there is actually a fair bit of attention, as there should be, because I do think China is the rising power. The declining power, which is, in fact, probably the more dangerous one, is Russia.



Can I just add a very quick comment here?

    It seems to me that part of what drives your question is, in fact, a very Canadian focus. In other words, we are not hearing in Canada the discussion, but if you go to the Asia-Pacific region, there is a lot of discussion about the role of China and how to deal with China.

    Australians have been engaged in a national conversation the likes of which we just simply haven’t seen in Canada. That’s one of the reasons why I think Canadians should start thinking about precisely the dynamics that you have identified.

    Thanks, Mr. Chair.


Thank you, Mr. Saini.

    Mr. McKay, please.


    Thank you both for your very thoughtful and excellent presentations. I adopt Madame Laverdière’s views with respect to how thoughtful you actually have been.

    Power abhors a vacuum. It seems to me that the G7 and NATO meetings last week were maybe watershed meetings, particularly with respect to Chancellor Merkel’s comments.

    Are we witnessing a transference of real power to Germany? Since World War II, Germany has constrained itself in terms of its militarization. Given Chancellor Merkel’s comments and the saber rattling by the more, as you rightly say, dangerous adversary, Mr. Putin, do you think we are in for a period of rearmament, particularly by the Germans, but more generally by the Europeans?


I don’t think we’re in for a period of rearmament because I’m not sure that’s where Chancellor Merkel, if she is re-elected, wants to go. I think she very much remains a transatlanticist. She just doesn’t, like many others, have a lot of respect for Mr. Trump.

    I do think Germany is the most important power in Europe and has been for more than a decade now. I would subscribe to The Economist‘s characterization of Chancellor Merkel as “the indispensable European”.

    I think what you saw was simply a reaction to a particular personality who isn’t necessarily going to be in the field. That German-American relationship is very important, although Mr. Trump, as my friend David Frum tweeted, has done more to divide Germany from the United States—the goal of Russian policy since the Second World War, first by the Soviet Union and now Russia—than Mr. Putin or any of his predecessors, but I think that will pass.

     I think Chancellor Merkel gets that. Her comments at the party rally were done, I think, in the context of the upcoming German election. She has to win that election and, not surprisingly, leaders often want to play to the hometown crowd. That’s reasonable. However, her subsequent comments and those of the people around her were to say that she very much understands the importance of the transatlantic relationship, as do we.


I don’t disagree with you there.


I think there are real odds to rearmament, though, in Asia. That’s where I would watch. If you want to see where a lot of money is being spent on arms, it’s in Asia and, as we saw from Mr. Trump’s visit, in the Middle East.


I don’t disagree that Chancellor Merkel is pretty reluctant and believes in the transatlantic relationship, etc., but we are in for a rough four years, in theory. We can’t leave ourselves exposed.

    I also want to pick up on Mr. Saini’s question, and particularly on this one belt, one road concept. That road runs right through Afghanistan, which seems to be deteriorating into a pretty chaotic state once again.

    I would be interested in your thoughts as to what “accommodation”, for want of a better word, the Alliance-U.S.-West should make with China vis-à-vis the security requirements of Afghanistan because One Belt, One Road will go nowhere if there’s total chaos in Afghanistan.



The One Belt, One Road has a number of roads and a number of belts. Yes, indeed, one goes through Afghanistan, but Pakistan is the far more important bit of the belt in the road. The possibility of making some accommodation with China over Afghanistan does two things. First, it overstates Afghanistan’s importance to this Chinese initiative. If you look at where the arrows are generally drawn in Chinese descriptions of this initiative, they go north and south and indeed partly through Afghanistan.

    The second problem, it seems to me, is that it overstates the capacity of the People’s Republic of China to actually do what might be necessary in Afghanistan to provide the kind of security that, bluntly put, we haven’t really seen since the late 1970s. Because our attention as Canadians has been elsewhere since 2014, you claim that once again it’s descending into problems. The reality is that it’s always been there, including when we were there from 2001 to 2014. The capacity of the Chinese to solve the governance problems of Afghanistan is exceedingly limited, it seems to me. I don’t think there is any willingness in Beijing to try to get into that particular mess. They will run their belt and roads in different areas if, in fact, Afghanistan continues to be the security problem that it has been and remains.


Finally, the government is releasing its suite of policies this week—foreign affairs, defence, and development. The defence policy review will be out tomorrow. What will we be looking for?


One of the things the defence policy review needs to do is to address some of the concerns that not only Mr. Trump but the Americans generally have to consider. You perhaps know what’s in the defence review, and I don’t. What I would be looking for is a resolution of the issue of ballistic missile defence, finally. I would also be looking to address the replacement of our legacy CF-18 fighter jets for the future of NORAD.

     Whether we get to, as Colin says, the magic 2%”…I mean, think about it. To go from where we are now at 0.88% to 2%, we’re talking about defence spending at close to 40% as opposed to 18% or so. Canadians can’t spend like Australians on defence. Australians have no difficulty spending 1.9% of GDP, but I can’t remember a Canadian government of either political stripe that could seriously consider spending 2% of GDP on defence. I will personally be interested to see how Mr. Sajjan squares this particular circle.


Money does count here. I’m looking to see if the trend line is going to move forward; I think that’s important. Our navy patrols the longest shoreline in the world. I think the maritime domain in this age of uncertainty really does matter even more to how we’re going to manage things. Are we going to take a different look at procurement practices, for example, not just for the F-35 but also for our shipbuilding? I’m looking to see what there might be in terms of peace operations. We heard a lot about peace operations with former minister Dion, but it seems to have slipped off the rails. Are we going into Mali, for example? Where are we headed there? It should always reflect Canadian interests. I’m interested in the direction of the government, where it wants to move in terms of security and defence for Canada have weight as a middle power.

    I’m a Pearsonian, from the Pearsonian school. Pearson put great weight on diplomacy, but he always understood that you had to have the hard power to back it up. I think in this age of uncertainty it serves Canadian interests. Think of our forces, for example, as first responders. When it comes time to do humanitarian relief, being able to have the big planes that can go in to carry cargo is really important. It’s also helpful to have amphibious ships when seas rise and there are floods.



Thank you, Mr. McKay.

    Mr. Kent, please.


Thank you.

    Just to pick up on Professor Nossal’s last point about the resolution of the question of ballistic missile defence and the continuing conversation about whether or not NORAD should be updated to be more than an air defence program, with Canada playing a greater role in overall continental defence, what would your advice be to the government on BMD?


It’s very simple.



I would say exactly the same thing, as I have said before in this committee. My view is that it is now a threat to Canada.

    Kim Jong-un and North Korea now have the capacity with their missiles, and the trajectory…. The algorithms and the American interceptor systems now protect the west coast of the United States up to Alaska. They might protect Vancouver, but the danger is that cities like Calgary, Edmonton, and Saskatoon are not protected, so I think it’s in our own interest to join. That’s why you do these things. You don’t do this because we’re being doing something good for the United States; we’re doing this from a Canadian interest perspective. I think the Canadian interest now demands that, as an insurance policy, we participate in ballistic missile defence.


And it’s not only against North Korea. We’re talking about 20 to 25 years. We have no idea what the geopolitical realities will be, but we do know that 25 years into the future, we’re going to be deeply linked to the United States, continuing as we have been since 1941. It only makes sense, it seems to me, to complete the process that basically began in the 1950s.


I would assume that both of you advise the expansion of the continental defence in terms of unconventional warfare, the—



Well, cyber warfare certainly, but there is the potential for a device in a shipping container sent by conventional maritime freight.


This is just common sense. It’s the role of government to defend its people.


Since 2006 or so, we have been embracing the maritime side of that.


To speak, finally, about the gaps in appointments in key departments in the United States, it’s been interesting that at the same time, even while these vacancies have existed and do exist, to see foreign policy professionals like Tom Shannon and Mike Froman continue with pretty much their assigned roles, interacting with Canada on a number of issues. How do you explain that? Do you think their voices have continuing weight inside the White House?


That’s like trying to understand Mr. Trump.

    Do they have influence? I think they have influence, as Kim said, on the adults in the room, on the generals and Secretary Tillerson.

    As they recruit, I think inevitably there will be more predictability in the process in the United States. The Americans themselves want to see that. The Congress wants to see it, but you’re always going to have Mr. Trump and his tweets at 3 a.m.


One of the real difficulties is that Mr. Trump was so negative about the Republican foreign and defence policy community in the United States that the administration is having difficulty recruiting the people necessary to run these things. If you look at the list, you wonder to yourself where you would actually find qualified individuals to serve in these incredibly complex assistant secretary and ambassadorial positions.



Thank you.


Thank you very much to Professor Nossal and Mr. Robertson. Thank you very much for spending this quality time with us. I think it was a very good discussion. We probably could sit here for a couple more hours, and maybe at some point we will have an opportunity to revisit this. These are very interesting times, to say the least.

    One of the things that I’m very interested in is that there must be some positives to Mr. Trump from a Canadian perspective. Chaos is a good negotiating position, or so I have always found when I negotiated. I am very curious if anybody has any idea of what positives could come out of what’s going on in the U.S.

    We would like to hear about that at some point, because the narrative seems to be that this is impossible, but sometime what comes out of this may be an opportunity for Canada in other areas of the world or even in the U.S. to gain some leverage, so I would be interested in that at some point. It’s not for today, of course, because we don’t have the time, but I would be very interested in that, because of course there is a strong belief, if you’re a negotiator, that sometimes when the other side is a little bit preoccupied there are things you can get accomplished.

    Again, on behalf of the committee, I just want to say thank you. I very much enjoyed this morning, and as the other colleagues have said, your presentations were extremely well done. Thank you.

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Freeland Foreign Policy

Canada Says It Will Chart Its Own Course, Apart From U.S.

Foreign minister Chrystia Freeland expressed Canadian government discontent with U.S. protectionism and isolationism

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered a speech on a shift in Canada’s foreign policy in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 6. Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters


Paul Vieira

Updated June 6, 2017 5:51 p.m. ET


OTTAWA—Canada signaled it would pursue foreign-policy objectives that are in contrast to the growing isolationism of the U.S., marking a shift away from its historic alignment with its neighbor and most important trading partner.

In a speech to the legislature on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took the unusual step of expressing Canadian government discontent with the U.S., citing concerns about America’s growing protectionism, its withdrawal from the Paris climate-change agreement and the desire by its voters to “shrug off the burden of leadership” globally.

Canada plans to strengthen its military presence in the most dangerous parts of the world, Ms. Freeland said, and will on Wednesday release details on spending plans for a new defense policy. A boost in military spending and greater engagement would mark a departure for the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was elected on a campaign promise to end Canada’s direct combat role in the fight against Islamic State.

“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state,” she said. “Such a dependence would not be in Canada’s interest.…The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,” Ms. Freeland said.

While Ms. Freeland didn’t name U.S. President Donald Trump, she left little doubt that she was talking about U.S. leadership as she described the distance between the Canadian government and Trump administration policies on global trade, climate change, the commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the pursuit of women’s rights, including access to safe abortions.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, embraced Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in the House of Commons on June 6, after she delivered a speech about a shift in Canada’s foreign policy. Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters

The remarks are the latest in a string of warnings from world leaders about the risks of U.S. isolationism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe can no longer rely on other countries, underscoring her concern with U.S. policy such as Mr. Trump’s refusal to publicly back a core tenet of NATO, that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Ms. Freeland said the principle, known as Article 5,  is “at the heart” of Canada’s security policy.

Ms. Freeland, who is also responsible for cross-border trade, highlighted Canada’s differences with the U.S. even as she faces renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, in talks scheduled to start in August. Mr. Trump was elected in part on a vow to revamp the trade pact incorporating the U.S., Canada and Mexico, which he has called a “disaster” and blamed for U.S. manufacturing job losses.

That criticism is misplaced, Ms. Freeland said. “It is wrong to view the woes of our middle class as the result of fiendish behavior by foreigners,” she said. “The real culprit is domestic policy that fails to appreciate that continued growth, and political stability, depend on domestic measures that share the wealth.”

The big surprise in the speech, observers say, was Ms. Freeland’s “strident endorsement” of a stronger Canadian military, said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and now vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, in Ottawa. “She gave every indication the government will make a robust investment in our security and defense,” he said.

Such an investment would move Canada closer to, although still below, the NATO target that member countries should spend 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

Last week, Mr. Trudeau joined Ms. Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in publicly rebuking Mr. Trump for his decision last week to withdraw from the Paris climate-change accord.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Merkel spoke by phone on Tuesday, at which time both Group of Seven leaders reiterated their commitment to multilateralism and the fight against climate change, according to a summary of the conversation released by Canadian officials.

They agreed to “continue working closely with like-minded partners to implement the historic Paris agreement on climate change,” the Canadian readout said.

—Jacquie McNish
contributed to this article.

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Is Canada really back?

How Canada must navigate the new normal of global relationships

What does “Canada is back” really mean? Some answers will come this week in Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s foreign policy speech and in the release, overdue, of the Defence Policy Review.

Success will hinge on answering three questions:

• What are the priorities?

• How much new money will be invested?

• What are the means to achieve them?

From day one, the Trudeau government vigorously re-embraced multilateralism, declaring that Canada would seek a seat on the UN Security Council.

But a council seat is a means, not an end. Will Ms. Freeland spell out our electoral platform and tell us what we want to achieve? And what is happening with peace operations? Are we going to Mali?

The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has shaken the rules-based liberal international system in the same fashion that the tumbling of the Berlin Wall presaged the end of the Soviet Union.

It is too soon to tell whether President Trump’s changes will endure but, for now, as guardian of the order that it created the United States has gone AWOL.

Middle powers such as Canada need to step up to save our global operating system.

In the wake of Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord, we should focus on the practical side of climate mitigation through, for example, the open sharing of technological innovation achieved by Canada’s oil sands companies, coupled with more science diplomacy. Evidence-based research still matters.

The Trudeau Government has rightly made the U.S. relationship its top priority, shifting cabinet officers, connecting with the new administration, reaching out to Congress and, in its outreach into Trump territory, bringing in premiers and business to make the case for Canada. Our livelihood – and the government’s own re-election – depends on managing this relationship.

In response to Mr. Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” policies, Justin Trudeau is going full bore into trade diversification. His father did the same after Richard Nixon imposed a U.S. import surcharge in 1971. Pierre Trudeau’s third-option strategy was aimed, with limited success, at closer links with Europe and Japan.

Ms. Freeland brought home the Canada-Europe trade agreement. International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne is helping to resuscitate the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is leading talks with China. In renegotiating NAFTA, we are working with Mexico, our third-largest trading partner. Continental ties are also deepening through the Pacific Alliance.

We are good at trade policy. Now we need to invest more in trade development. We also need the infrastructure, especially pipelines, that get our resources to market.

Ms. Freeland is sure to mention the progressive trade agenda in her policy speech. It will take real form, with the addition of a chapter on gender to the Canada-Chile free-trade agreement, as part of the announcements during this week’s visit of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

It is a smart initiative. Women are steadily increasing their place in global business. Women are very good entrepreneurs when given the opportunity, as micro-financing has demonstrated in Asia and Africa.

A progressive trade agenda must also address trade adjustment.

Canada’s social safety net – medicare, pensions and unemployment insurance – helps shield us from the populism that propelled Mr. Trump to power but, as we witness in Europe, it does not guarantee immunity.

Addressing inequality would be a useful theme for Canada to champion as we host next year’s G7 summit and, in the meantime, we should make it a focus for collective attention in multilateral forums such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Labour Organization.

The Trudeau government has sustained our commitment to collective security, with a brigade headed to Latvia and a sustained naval presence in the Arabian Gulf. But there is a readiness gap as we await new warships and fighter jets. When it comes to defence, money matters.

Successive Canadian governments have skimped and we stand accused, with some justice, of “freeloading”. We should set as goals of good international citizenship a contribution of 2 per cent of GDP to defence spending – the NATO norm – and 0.7 per cent of GDP for development – the Pearson Commission standard. If the United Kingdom can manage it, so can Canada

Canadian foreign policy, like all middle powers, is inevitably reactive. Choices must be weighed against interests, values and resources. With effort and money, we can make a difference in the niches. This week will give us a better sense of the Trudeau niches.

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