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Trump or Biden: What it means for Canada

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Biden or More Trump: What Canadians Need to Know about the 2020 U.S. Election


Image credit: Force Ten Design


by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice-President & Fellow
October 2020


Table of Contents


That Nov. 3 is the “most consequential” U.S. election in our lifetime is likely correct and not just for Americans. If it’s four more years of Donald Trump, then the preppers and survivalists may be on to something. Whatever and whenever the results, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is right to say that Canada needs to be “ready for all outcomes”.

Canada’s relationship with the U.S. is the consequential one. NORAD safeguards our security, although whoever forms the next administration is going to press us to invest in a new North Warning System and to increase our defence spending to the NATO target of two per cent of GDP (we currently spend 1.3 per cent).  The new Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade agreement (CUSMA) guarantees access to what is still the biggest market in the world and the preferred entry point for fledgling Canadian exporters. Our shared environment is managed through a web of agreements dating back to the Boundary Waters Treaty and the International Joint Commission (1909).

Despite the asymmetries of power, with care and constant attention we have mostly enjoyed a remarkable partnership that is the envy of other nations. It also leverages our diplomacy. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney described it best: “Canada’s influence in the world is measured to a significant degree by the extent to which we are perceived as having real influence in Washington.”

Geopolitics’ shifting tides suggest that the U.S. is in relative decline and certainly its handling of COVID has shaken global confidence. Although Trump has damaged the American brand, the U.S. still enjoys considerable hard and soft power. Canada cannot change its geography, nor would we want to. So, we need to keep investing in our most important relationship, no matter who is president.


If Trump Wins

After the duelling town halls (Oct.15), the Daily Beast headline caught the zeitgeist of the campaign: “The Biden and Trump Shows: It’s Mr. Rogers vs. ‘Someone’s Crazy Uncle’.” For Trump, re-election will be a reaffirmation of “America First”, but unlike 2016 when he campaigned on themes like “Build the Wall”, “Repeal NAFTA” and “Drain the Swamp”, the platform this time is essentially “More Trump” with his transactional approach to issues and those transactions must serve his domestic priorities.


The Trudeaus and Trumps in the Oval Office 2017 Source PMO

Trump has revolutionized personal diplomacy through his constant tweets. They have obliged foreign ministries to set up 24/7 Trump watches. It has been a revolving door for those minding his national security, defence and foreign policies. Despite its incoherence and unpredictability, Trump’s view of the world remains that set out in his inaugural address:

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own. And spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon … From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.

And as he told West Point graduates in June:

We are restoring the fundamental principles that the job of the American soldier is not to rebuild foreign nations, but defend – and defend strongly – our nation from foreign enemies. We are ending the era of endless wars. In its place is a renewed, clear-eyed focus on defending America’s vital interests. It is not the duty of U.S. troops to solve ancient conflicts in faraway lands that many people have never even heard of. We are not the policemen of the world.

We can expect withdrawals from more multilateral organizations, starting with the World Trade Organization (WTO). He also promises to let lapse the New START accord, which limited the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and Russia. He has tried to reduce U.S. contributions to the UN – U.S. funding accounts for close to 1/5 of the UN budget – but Congress has sustained the U.S. support. Trump’s speeches at the UN have been bombastic and defiantly unilateralist. His debut speech (2017) to UNGA was an ode to sovereignty,  telling delegates that “our success depends on a coalition of strong, independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.”

Alliances don’t figure much in the Trump world view. As two of his principal advisors, H.R. McMaster and Gary D. Cohn, phrased it in the Wall Street Journal  (May 2017): “The world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”


Trump claims, falsely, that the WTO takes advantage of the U.S. For Canada, which is leading efforts to reform WTO dispute settlement, a second Trump administration means the threat of more tariffs – blueberries may be next – and quota arrangements, whether formal as with autos or informal as with aluminum.

In her confirmation testimony in July before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ambassador-designate Aldona Wos identified the priority areas for Canada-U.S. international focus as cyber-China, Russia/Ukraine, Iran, Venezuela, counterterrorism, cyber-security and 5G network standards, peacekeeping and the Arctic.

A Trump administration devoted to further deregulation, fossil fuel exploitation and lower taxes also presents complications for Canada. It will be hard to square competitiveness with a green shift and social justice redistribution if the U.S. is headed in the opposite direction. We also need to keep in mind that Republicans and Democrats see the world and its threats differently.


If Biden Wins

Life for Canada would be easier with a Joe Biden administration. An internationalist, as vice-president he told the World Economic Forum three days before leaving office in 2017 that “for the past seven decades, the choices we have made – particularly the United States and our allies in Europe – have steered our world down a clear path. In recent years, it has become evident that the consensus upholding this system is facing increasing pressures, from within and from without. It’s imperative that we act urgently to defend the liberal international order.”


Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden 2016 Source PMO

It’s a theme Biden returned to in his 2019 speeches at the Munich Security Conference (February) and at CUNY New York (July). At Munich he promised that the “America I see does not wish to turn our back to the world or our allies. The America I see – and I mean this from the bottom of my heart – cherishes the free press, democracy, the rule of law.” In New York he promised “to once more place America at the head of the table, leading the world to address the most urgent global challenges” by using multilateralism and valuing democratic allies like Canada.

There is a tendency to assume Americans have slipped into a Trumpian isolationism but a recent survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, tracking American attitudes for decades, says Americans remain supportive of an active U.S. role in the world. Solid majorities support U.S. security alliances and free trade as the best ways to maintain peace and prosperity. In his July 2019 foreign policy speech, he committed to a summit of democracies modelled on Obama’s nuclear security summits, where leaders would commit to strengthening democracy at home and overseas and “make concrete commitments to take on corruption and advance human rights in their own nations.”


Biden would come to office with the most foreign policy experience of any president since John Quincy Adams, although former Defense secretary and CIA director Robert Gates caustically writes in his memoir that Biden has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”  Biden will also be able to draw on formidable talent well versed in national security– veterans of the Obama and Clinton administrations – as well as Republicans who declared Mr. Trump “unfit” and support Mr. Biden (and we can be sure smart  embassies are reaching out to those on these lists). There is also a major rebuilding job within the professional ranks of the demoralized US Foreign Service.

On Russia, Biden would align more with the rest of the G7 in seeing Russian revanchism with its immediate neighbours and mischief-making in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and through cyber-subversion and disinformation. Biden “will confront Russian aggression from a position of strength, even as we work to maintain strategic stability.” He also promises to “reassess” the Saudi Arabia “and US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and make sure America does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil.” Even before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi-Canada relations have been strained on human rights issues.

Biden’s first priority must be a daunting domestic agenda, starting with COVID recovery, along with his commitments to such issues as clean energy, immigration reform and action on social and racial justice. His social justice and green and clean energy policies align with those of the Trudeau government.

Canada needs to leverage off this domestic agenda and identify the natural fits. “Building back better” and the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan come with the protectionist promise of “Buy American.” We need to persuade Biden of the benefits of continental collaboration on resilient, clean infrastructure, including our shared network of pipelines and electrical grids. As reports from Harvard’s Belfer Center and the Council on Foreign Relations underline, this will guarantee both dependable supply chains and mutual prosperity.

The new North American trade accord includes a competitiveness committee that we need to activate and harness for continuous improvements. Voters tell pollsters that they expect a fairer distribution of the gains of globalization, including accountability for the environment and human rights. Why not start in North America?

Biden has set himself a big agenda. It is hard to run too many things through the U.S. system at once. However, Biden’s Senate experience (1973-2009) and then as vice-president (2009-16) chairing both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees means he knows how to legislate and get it done.

The separation of powers means that even if the Democrats control both chambers in Congress as Bill Clinton did in 1992 and Barack Obama did in 2008, they need to focus on a few priorities, starting with recovery and reform at home. As Biden wrote in a 2017 New York Times op-ed: “In over 45 years of working in global affairs, I’ve observed a simple truth: America’s ability to lead the world depends not just on the example of our power, but on the power of our example.”

Getting time with a new administration is always difficult, so we need to go in with solutions rather than complaints. While Biden threatens to scuttle the Keystone pipeline, we must avoid making it a litmus test of the relationship and instead work it out.

It helps that Biden likes Trudeau. After the 2016 election, Biden publicly called on him to be a defender of the “liberal international order”. While we can count on Trudeau to rekindle the relationship, our premiers and legislators need to continue their own outreach to their American counterparts. The premiers played a critical role in persuading their gubernatorial counterparts to sign on to a reciprocity agreement on procurement in the Obama administration infrastructure program as part of the recovery from the 2008-9 recession.


China and COVID

No matter who forms the next administration, managing China will stay in the president’s inbox. With Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig held hostage since Canada proceeded with the extradition request for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in December 2019, we have real stakes in this file.

After imposing tariffs on China, Trump tried the carrot of a trade deal and a personal relationship with President Xi Jinping. He now blames China for the “China virus” pandemic and is confronting Chinese aggressiveness around Taiwan and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific. The rising Chinese threat is reflected in current U.S. strategic doctrine, the National Security Strategy (2017), which describes China as a revisionist power wanting “to erode American security and prosperity” and “shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests.” The Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy (2018) describes China as a “strategic competitor” that seeks “Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.” In his speech, “Communist China and the Free World’s Future” (July, 2020), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said engagement was a failure and China is pursuing its“decades-long desire for global hegemony of Chinese communism.”


While the tone will be different, Biden and Congress will be tough with China on trade issues like intellectual property and forced technology transfers, on Chinese infringements of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong, and on human rights issues like repression of the Uighurs. But again, Biden looks to collective action, writing in Foreign Affairs that “the most effective way to meet that challenge is to build a united front of U.S. allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviors and human rights violations, even as we seek to cooperate with Beijing on issues where our interests converge.”

Surveys across the democracies indicate increasingly negative attitudes toward China, and in foreign ministries the policy debate on China is resetting from engagement to containment. Canadian attitudes have shown a similar shift toward distrust of China. Where once Canada aimed at comprehensive engagement, Trudeau now speaks of Chinese “coercive diplomacy” and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan talks of “hostage diplomacy”.

Whoever forms the next administration faces a world ravaged by COVID. The World Bank warns that the pandemic is relegating 150 million  people to extreme poverty. Trudeau has championed COVID support for the developing world. So why not offer to work with the next administration around the delivery of vaccines that only the U.S. military can achieve, and then on community health drawing on Canadian experience?

Whoever forms the next administration also faces formidable financial challenges. At 17.9 per cent of GDP in FY 2020 the U.S. federal deficit is almost twice as large than at the worst of the 2009 Great Recession. The federal debt, measured against the size of the economy,  is larger than at any time since the Second World War. Interest on the debt is greater than the budgets of Homeland Security, State, Commerce, Education, Energy, HUD, Interior and Justice.



Basics of the Canada-U.S. Relationship

The “golden rule” of Canada-U.S. relations is very simple Brian Mulroney astutely observed: “We can disagree without being disagreeable. The Americans are very important to us. We know they are, notwithstanding the differences, our best ally, our closest neighbour, our biggest customer.” Relationships matter and it starts at the top with the prime minister and president.

If the Trudeau-Obama relationship was characterized as a ‘bromance’ it has been much more difficult with Mr. Trump who seems to prefer dealing with despots rather than democrats. Probably the low point of the Trudeau-Trump personal relationship came at the end of the G7 summit in Charlevoix (June, 2018) when Trump repudiated U.S. signature to the summit communique and tweeted that Trudeau was “so meek and mild…very dishonest & weak”. That Trudeau has restored the personal relationship is a tribute to his perseverance and reflective of another Mulroney observation that the most important relationship for any Canadian prime minister is that with the U.S. president.

When prime ministers and presidents meet, they usually begin their discussions with the big picture: the geostrategic issues of international peace and security, finance and economics, climate and migration. Then they turn to the bilateral, usually conveniently sorted into three big baskets: defence and security; trade and the border; energy, environment and climate.

Defence and Security: Our military, law enforcement and security agencies all work closely together. The U.S. is our principal ally through a series of agreements dating back to before the Second World War, of which the most important is the 1958 bi-national North American Aerospace Defence Agreement (NORAD). The only bi-national military command in the world covers air and maritime defence. We are also jointly committed to collective security through NATO (1949) with a Canadian battle group in Latvia (since 2017) and fighter jets, frigates and submarines patrolling the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and Central and Eastern Europe. Canada and the U.S. share intelligence through the Five Eyes nations group.


Source: DND

Trade and the Border: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 400,000 people and $US2 billion worth of goods and services crossed our borders daily. The border has been closed since March; how and when it will reopen is yet to be determined. Canada is the largest market for export goods for over 30 states. The United States is Canada’s most important trading partner by a wide margin and it is characterized by heavily integrated supply chains, notably in auto manufacturing. According to the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. goods and services trade with Canada totalled an estimated $718.5 billion in 2018. Exports were $363.8 billion; imports were $354.7 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Canada was $9.1 billion in 2018. According to the Department of Commerce, U.S. exports of goods and services to Canada supported an estimated 1.6 million jobs in 2015. Canadian estimates of jobs generated in the U.S. through our bilateral trade tally almost 9 million, while 1.9 million Canadian jobs are related to Canada’s exports to the U.S.


Source: Agriculture Canada

Approximately 75 per cent of our exports go to the U.S. and the U.S. accounts for about 51 per cent of our imports. In 2019, the United States was the recipient of more than one-third of our foreign investment and accounted for about half of our foreign direct investment. The United States remains Canada’s main investment partner. Successive Canadian governments, dating back before Confederation, have consistently sought rules-based commercial agreements of which the 2020 CUSMA is but the latest iteration. Our deep economic integration gives us privileged, but not always secure, access to the biggest market in the world. It requires a permanent campaign by all levels of government in tandem with business, labour and civil society to fend off the forces of protectionism at the local, county, state and national levels.

Energy, Environment and Climate: The energy relationship is vital to both countries – electricity generated in Quebec literally lights up Broadway. Canada is the largest source of U.S. energy imports and the second-largest destination for U.S. energy exports. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, in 2019 energy accounted for US$85 billion, or 27 per cent, of the value of all U.S. imports from Canada. Crude oil and petroleum products accounted for 91 per cent of the value of U.S. energy imports from Canada and 89 per cent of the value of U.S. energy exports to Canada. The United States exported US$23 billion worth of crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas and electricity to Canada in 2019, about eight per cent of the value of all U.S. exports to Canada. The Canadian and U.S. electricity grid is deeply integrated with more than 30 major transmission arteries connecting all contiguous Canadian provinces to neighbouring U.S. states.


Source: Natural Resources Canada

We share joint stewardship for our environment and lead the world in innovative cross-border practices. The Boundary Waters Treaty (1909) established the International Joint Commission that tends to the shared waters along our 5,525-mile-long border. The Great Lakes, with almost 20 per cent of global fresh water, receive special attention. Commitments to protect aquatic habitats, curb invasive species and help coastal communities adapt to climate change were added in 2012 to the 1972 Water Quality Agreement. The rigorous negotiations around the Canada-U.S. Acid Rain Treaty (1991) and the multilateral Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer (1987) serve as a model for how we deal with climate change. Canada and the U.S. are also members of the Arctic Council, established in Canada in 1996 with the signing of the Ottawa Declaration.

Canada in the U.S.: In addition to our embassy in Washington, we have 12 consulates-general throughout the U.S. A number of the provinces also have U.S.-based representatives. Given the depth and importance of our trade and investment, we should have a Canadian presence in every state to act as our eyes, ears and voice. With well over a million star-spangled Canadians living and working in the U.S., we need to rethink how we do business, including making greater use of honorary consuls.

Basic Facts on the U.S. Election

  • On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Americans will go to the polls to elect their president and 35 members of the Senate (currently held by 23 Republicans and 12 Democrats). The GOP currently holds 53 seats and the Democrats and Independents hold 47 seats in the 100-member Senate. All 435 members of the House of Representatives are up for election. The Democrats hold 231 seats and the GOP 184. There are gubernatorial elections in 11 states with the GOP defending seven and the Democrats four. Nationally, the GOP holds 26 governorships and the Democrats 24. Voters will also elect 5,876 of the country’s 7,383 state legislators as well as local sheriffs, judges, county and city councilors. They will also decide on state and civic initiatives, propositions and constitutional amendments. As set out in the Constitution, the next U.S. Congress will begin at noon on January 3, 2021 and the Chief Justice will administer the oath of office to the president at noon on January 20, 2021.
  • The U.S. Elections Project predicts a high turnout of eligible voters (in 2016 it was 55.5 per cent). It estimates (October 21) that over 41 million Americans (nearly 1/3 of the turnout in 2016) have already cast their ballots either in person or through the mail. Over 50 million  – 24 million registered Democrats and 16 million registered Republicans – have requested mail-in ballots.
  • In 2016, the Census calculated that almost two-thirds of eligible white voters cast a ballot. African-American turnout fell to 59 per cent, a drop from both of Obama’s elections. Latino turnout was at 48 per cent. Young people stayed home: only about 46 per cent of eligible voters under 30 turned out, far below the participation among those 45 and older.



Source: US Census Bureau

  • The total cost of the 2020 election will approach $11 billion, more than 50 per cent pricier than 2016, according to estimates from the Center for Responsive Politics.


Source: Pew Foundation


Further Sources

Both Brookings and the Council on Foreign Relations have analyzed Biden’s and Trump’s foreign policies.  For public opinion surveys, look to the Pew Foundation and Chicago Council on Global Affairs. PBS Frontline’s The Choice 2020: Trump vs Biden is riveting watching. For a comprehensive account and insights from a practitioner into American diplomacy read Robert Zoellick’s America in the World: A History of US Diplomacy and Foreign Policy.

The U.S. embassy and Canadian embassy provide basic facts and the embassies’ state trade fact sheets are especially useful.

For a contemporary view on managing Canada-U.S. relations, listen to former ambassador David MacNaughton in conversation with Paul Wells. For an historical perspective, browse through the Washington Diaries of Allan Gottlieb, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Canadian diplomacy in the United States, and look to his C.D. Howe lecture on Romanticism and Realism in Canadian Foreign Policy.

Track Two Discussions China-Canada

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China Institute, University of Alberta (CIUA) – Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA) – Fifth Round of Track II Dialogue


On October 20, 2020, the 5th round of Canada-China Track II Dialogue was held virtually via video link between Beijing and several cities in Canada.

Previous rounds of the Dialogue have been held in Ottawa, Beijing, Banff and near Chengdu (China).

The China Institute of the University of Alberta was established in 2005 with the support of an endowment granted by the Province of Alberta which matched the appraised value of The Mactaggart Art Collection, donated to the University of Alberta Museums by philanthropists Sandy and Cécile Mactaggart. CPIFA was established in 1949, with Premier Zhou Enlai as its first President.

The Canadian delegation for the 5th round of Canada-China Track II Dialogue was as follows:

Gordon Houlden, Director of the China Institute, at the University of Alberta.
Hon. Lloyd AxworthyChair of the World Refugee and Migration Council, former Minister of Employment and Immigration, Western Diversification and former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Robert Wrightformer Canadian Ambassador to P.R. China; Former Deputy Minister of International Trade
Gordon Vennerformer Canadian diplomat and ambassador, and former Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence.
Susan GregsonFormer Assistant Deputy Minister for Asia Pacific at Global Affairs Canada, previously served as Deputy High Commissioner in London, Consul General of Canada in Shanghai and Minister-Counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing.
Ron MacIntosh, Senior Fellow with the China Institute at the University of Alberta, Former Director General, Strategic Planning, Resources and Coordination, Global Affairs Canada and former Canadian diplomat with postings in Japan, Korea, Washington, and as the Executive Director, Canadian Trade Office in Taipei.
Colin Robertson, Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, former Canadian diplomat, served as first Head of the Advocacy Secretariat and Minister at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and Consul General in Los Angeles, with previous assignments as Consul and Counsellor in Hong Kong and in New York at the UN and Consulate General.
Jia Wang, Deputy Director, China Institute, University of Alberta

The Chinese delegation for the 5th round of Canada-China Track II Dialogue was as follows:

WANG Chao, President of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs.
QIU Yuanping, Standing Committee Member, Vice Chairman of the Commission for Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Overseas Chinese of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
CHEN Xiaogong, Former Deputy Commander of Chinese Air Force and Former Assistant Chief of the General Staff.
ZHOU MingweiPresident of Translators Association of China, President of China Academy of Translation, and Executive Member of China Public Diplomacy Association.
ZHAO Weiping, Vice President of Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs
ZHANG Junsai, Former Chinese Ambassador to Canada.
JIANG Shan, Former Minister Counsellor (Commercial) at the Chinese Embassy in Canada.


The dialogue also benefited from the perspectives of China’s Ambassador to Canada H.E. Cong Peiwu and Canada’s Ambassador to China H.E. Dominic Barton, who both delivered remarks as guest speakers.

The dialogue covered the following main topics:

  • What have been the strengths of the Canada-China interactions that have sustained the relationship for half a century, despite differences in culture, political systems and economies?
  • What are the challenges that have prevented the Canada-China relations from reaching their full potential?
  • How can the current problems that limit the diplomatic relationship be tackled?
  • Can Canada and China find ways to promote multinational solutions to trade, environmental and international issues?
  • Will deteriorating Sino-American relations constrain the rehabilitation of Canada-China relations?

Travel restrictions permitting, it is expected that the 6th round of Canada-China Track II Dialogue will be held in Canada in 2021.


Two Michaels and China

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Finally, a consular visit to Canadians imprisoned by China

After months of detention with no contact with Canadian authorities, China finally allowed a virtual consular contact with two detained Canadians. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig, and consultant Michael Spavor have been in Chinese prisons since December 2018.

Their arrest and detention in what has been labelled as harsh conditions, came almost immediately after Huawei top executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada on a U.S. extradition requests.  She faces bank fraud charges there related to U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The detention and later charges of espionage against the two Michaels have been called ‘arbitrary’ by Canadian authorities and is widely seen as retaliation for Meng’s detention under a form of house arrest at her two Vancouver mansions.

Since January and the outbreak of the pandemic in China, authorities there have prevented Canadian contact with the two Michaels using the excuse of fear of spreading the virus. Up till this Friday even virtual contact had not been allowed. This is in contravention of a 1999 Canada-China consular agreement, as well as international law Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Reports are that the men were greatly relieved to finally get news from the outside world.

Consular visits of nationals detained in foreign countries are to assess their condition, seek acces to medical care if necessary, provide advice, clarify the nature of the detention, and be a link for detainee and family to communicate.

Lately, Canadian officials past and present have been speaking out more loudly against the detentions and access refusal.   Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan last week in an onliine panel referred to China’s action as “hostage diplomacy”.

Quoted by the CBC on Friday, former Canadian ambassador to China, David Mulroney said. “There was absolutely no reason that virtual access couldn’t have been offered by China even during the height of the pandemic, and no justification for denying in-person visits after China emerged from lockdown during the summer. This is simply more cruel treatment by China, with the expectation that we will be grateful even for even a half-hearted effort on their part. We shouldn’t fall into that trap.”

Canadian Ambassador to the U.N., Bob Rae responded to a Chinese comment at a General Assembly last week that Canada was bullying China. Rae gave a severe rebuke saying Canada would never forget China’s harsh treatment of the two Canadians, saying it was something “we will never forget’, then adding. “If you think that insulting us or insulting my country or insulting anyone is going to help in resolving the situation, you’re sadly mistaken”.

Canadian U.N. ambassador rebukes China

Former Canadian diplomat to Hong Kong, Colin Robertson in an email said the harsh words ma have had an effect in China relenting to allow he virtual consular visits last Friday and Saturday.

Colin Robertson, now with the Global Affairs Institute, is a former Canadian diplomat to China and to the U.N. (suppliled)

He wrote, “It appears that the Chinese government ceasing to withhold counselor access to Michael Kobrig and Michael Spavor is directly connected to the strong statement that Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bon Rae, made in the General Assembly a couple of days before
This does suggest that the Chinese regime does respond positively to Canada kicking back more assertively against China’s gross violations of the norms of international diplomacy and trade. It should embolden Canada to do the right thing and provide safe harbor to those in Hong Kong currently under risk of political persecution due to the National Security Law and to sanction Chinese officials under Canada’s Justice for Victims of Foreign Corrupt Officials Act, our Magnitsky list, for their genocidal actions against Turkic Muslims in Northwest China”.

Conservative opposition Member of Parliament and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong sad te consular visit should have happened much sooner adding the COVID excuse “doesn’t hold water”. Quoted in The Canadian Press, he added that China has largely reopened and in-person visits should have happened long ago. He added that the Liberal government seemed to be reacting to the continued pressure of the Conservatives to take a harder stance against China on the issue

Margaret  McCuaig-Johnston Senior Fellow, Institute of Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa, and Senior Fellow China Institute, University of Alberta, is a recognized expert on Canada-China relations. In an email to RCI on the two Michael’s imprisonment she noted that China has claimed the coronavirus problem is over and “there is absolutely no reason why they cannot be given in person visits as is their right”.

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a Mandarin speaker and respected analyst of Canada-Chinese affairs, is among those saying it’s time for Canada to get tough with China ( University of Ottawa)

She has been among many experts and former official who’ve been advocating for a tougher stance by Canada, calling the arrests of the Canadians a “kidnapping”. In response to some opinions that Canada could resolve the situation by sending Meng Wanzhou home she added, “We all want our citizens returned to us. But that doesn’t mean we should sell our soul and kowtow as low as possible by sending Ms Meng home – that would just teach China to take more hostages whenever it wants a country to fall into line on anything. China needs to see consequences for its outrageous actions against Canada, which has been a friend of China for 50 years. We should continue to work with others countries to call out China on its actions”.

She further added, ” We should impose Magnitsky sanctions against officials, not only for what they have done in Hong Kong and Xinjiang but in the first instance for the kidnapping of our Canadians. We should send home the Chinese athletes training for the 2022 Olympics in China.  The boycott of the Olympics being discussed would hurt our athletes and help China win more medals, but our gesture of friendship to train Chinese athletes is no longer appropriate.

Noting also the issue of 5G wireless technology and trade, she said, “We should ban Huawei, and work with other like-minded countries on alternatives to Chinese telecom technology (UK proposal – D-10, US proposal – Tech-10).  We should diversify away from China to other countries in the Indo-Pacific, so our companies are not at such risk of losing their trade and investments suddenly as happened to our agriculture sector — And we should diversify not just for trade & inv’t reasons but also population health, education, science and technology & security.”

At least three recent polls have shown at least three-quarters of Canadians now have an unfavourable view of China.

A document prepared by Canada’s Global Affairs department in October 2019, warned the then incoming Foreign Affairs minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, that “while Canada has long framed its China policy through the lens of economic opportunity, it now needs to take account of Beijing’s long-term strategic challenge to Canada’s interests and values.”

The papers  released to a committee which had been opposed by the Trudeau Liberals also said, “As the PRC [People’s Republic of China] continues to bolster its assertive foreign policy demeanor, Canada must promote and defend its values in close partnership with like-minded allies and coalitions. The crisis has demonstrated Beijing’s readiness and ability to use aggressive economic and political levers to punish Canada (a pattern observed in China’s other bilateral relationships), and to propagate norms of international relations inimical to Canada’s interests”.

Previous meetings by Foreign Minister Champagne with Chinese counterparts had led to no real movement on the issues. Recently, officials have been working with the U.s to get more support on the issue. In a phone call on Sat, Prime Minister Trudeau thanked U.S President Trump for his “ongoing support” in the effort to secure release of the two Michaels.

additional information- sources

US Election

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Canada games out scenarios for U.S. election, frets over potential disruption

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s foreign ministry is gaming out scenarios for the U.S. election and what the implications could be, especially if the aftermath is unpredictable, five sources familiar with the matter said.Ottawa is talking to other members of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations who are working on similar initiatives that plan out responses to various election outcomes, one source said.

The sources said officials were looking at scenarios ranging from a straightforward win by either Republican President Donald Trump or Democratic opponent Joe Biden to more complicated outcomes where the result is contested or delayed.

Insiders cite concern in Ottawa about the potential for economic disruption to highly integrated supply chains, especially for the auto industry. Canada is particularly vulnerable, given that 75% of its goods and services exports go to the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office declined to comment on the scenarios.

Canada’s ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, is playing a central role, said the sources, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation and declined to give precise details as to what they were looking at. Hillman’s office declined an interview request.

Trudeau said Canada was looking at political polarization in the United States with some concern.

“We’re all watching the U.S. election with close attention because of its potential impact on the Canadian economy and on Canadians,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“If it (the result) is less clear there may be some disruptions and we need to be ready for any outcomes,” he said.

Canadian officials are also looking at what happened in the disputed 2000 U.S. election, which took five weeks to resolve in favor of George Bush. Despite the tensions, there was no political violence.

But Trump has questioned the integrity of the electoral system many times, prompting apprehension about what his supporters might do in case of a contested or unclear result. That said, Canadian officials are not looking at extreme scenarios.

“I doubt anyone seriously would consider a flood of people making a mad dash to the border no matter how bad it gets,” said one person familiar with the discussions inside Ottawa.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat with several U.S. postings, said contacts at the foreign ministry told him they had already sent a memo on the matter to members of Trudeau’s team.

“There has been some concern from the prime minister’s office about ‘What if things went very badly, what might we do?’,” said Robertson, who is also vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Robertson said he had been told the concern was largely from people who had not served in the United States and therefore had a less deep understanding of U.S. institutions.

In public, Canadian officials are taking a neutral tone.

Trudeau, who has clashed with Trump in the past, said last week that Canada was respectful of events south of the border.

“We will not be interfering or engaging in any way in their electoral processes and that includes commenting on their electoral processes,” he told reporters.

Trudeau’s team was left scrambling in 2016, as no one had predicted a Trump victory, and it rushed to respond to the implications the day after the election, according to two people directly familiar with the matter.

University of Ottawa international affairs professor Roland Paris, Trudeau’s first foreign policy advisor, said Ottawa was right to stay out of U.S. politics.

“Trump has a clear track record of retaliating vindictively against anyone who says things that he doesn’t like,” he said.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Aurora Ellis

Belarus and Sanctions

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Why the experts think Belarus isn’t going to be Putin’s next Ukraine

Targeted sanctions ‘hit them where it hurts,’ says former diplomat

Demonstrators — one of them wearing an old Belarusian national flag and holding a cardboard sword reading “solidarity” — march during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus on Sept. 27, 2020. Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have been protesting daily since the Aug. 9 presidential election. (TUT.by/The Associated Press)

If there is a glimmer of a silver lining for Canada, the U.K. and its allies as they watch the brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in Belarus, it’s this: Russia probably doesn’t want another Ukraine — and it certainly can’t afford one.

The imposition of sanctions by both countries Tuesday against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, his son and six other Belarusian government officials in the wake of a disputed presidential election was the outcome of a delicate diplomatic dance that took weeks — even though some European nations chose to remain wallflowers.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said the Magnitsky-style sanctions would have had more punch if they’d been part of a wider multinational effort.

“In the case of Belarus, we have gone after the kingpins and we hit them where it hurts — their pocketbooks and ability to travel,” he said. “It would have been better if it were a G7 rather than just Canada and the U.K., but I guess it’s a reflection of EU solidarity.”

Some experts, meanwhile, say they think there’s a better-than-even chance that — although they’re not aimed at Russia — the economic penalties will prompt dialogue and lead to de-escalation.

“The Russians don’t want another Ukraine,” said Andrew Rasiulis, a former senior Canadian defence official now with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “They don’t want another problem on their border.”

Police detain a demonstrator during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (Associated Press)

While surface comparisons can be made between the situation in Belarus now and the six-year-old war in Ukraine, the geopolitical and economic landscapes are different, said Rasiulis, who once ran the Directorate of Nuclear and Arms Control Policy at the Department of National Defence.

Unlike the Ukrainians who took part in the anti-government, post-election protests in Kyiv that preceded the Russian invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014, those demonstrating in Minsk are not demanding closer association with the West or using much anti-Russian rhetoric. Belarusians are, primarily, rising up to demand good government.

And Moscow is in a weaker economic position now than it was in 2014 — in part because of the punishing sanctions imposed after its seizure of Crimea and armed intervention in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Dec. 20, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

For Belarus, getting hit by international sanctions following a presidential election is almost a regular thing.

In 2006, in reply to a heavy-handed response to protests, the U.S. and European Union levelled sanctions on dozens of Belarusian individuals and state-run companies. The EU eased up in 2016 when Lukashenko released political prisoners, but Washington has maintained an array of restrictions on Belarusian officials, including the president himself.

Penalizing the powerful

Robertson said the West has learned the hard way that targeted punishments, such as those imposed on Tuesday, will be more effective in the long run.

Experts at the U.S.-based RAND Corporation and elsewhere have warned repeatedly over the past decade that targeting key Belarusian state-owned enterprises (such as chemical and petrochemical industries) and restricting the flow of capital would cause higher economic damage to the country as a whole and hurt many ordinary citizens.

The chances of political concessions appear to be higher when you hit the business elite and the cronies, says one recent study by the think-tank.

That report, which looked at Russia’s influence in Eastern Europe and ways to contain it, said efforts to promote a more liberal Belarus were unlikely to succeed and could provoke a strong response from Moscow.

Convincing the Kremlin

William Courtney and Michael Haltzel, two noted U.S. experts on Eastern Europe, argued in a RAND Corporation blog post last month that western countries should support mediation and calls for a new presidential election with credible international monitoring.

Russia, they said, is the key — and Moscow could be enticed to go along.

“A more democratic, Eastern Slavic state on Russia’s border might be difficult for the Kremlin to accept, but the European Union and the United States could make clear that any improvement in relations with Moscow would depend on it not intervening coercively in Belarus,” wrote Courtney, a former ambassador, and Haltzel, a former policy adviser to U.S. Senator (now Democratic presidential nominee) Joe Biden.

Canada, Latvia and other western nations have called for mediation, said Rasiulis — who is convinced Moscow is more interested in keeping Belarus in its orbit than in Lukashenko’s political survival.

The Institute for the Study of War, another prominent U.S. think-tank, has warned that some of the Russian army units which took part in a recent joint military exercise may not have returned home from Belarus last week as planned.

Rasiulis said that while it’s clear Russian is keeping the option of force on table, he has a hard time believing Moscow would launch a violent crackdown because of how it would alienate the people of Belarus.

China Canada Parliamentary Committee

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When the new session begins, Parliamentarians will focus on COVID recovery, but they also need to pay attention to our critical relationship with China. MPs should re-establish the special committee on Canada-China relations that was created in the last session. We need continuing parliamentary oversight of this vital, complex and challenging relationship.

Created last December on a Conservative motion with Bloc Québécois, NDP and Green support, the committee held 12 meetings and the testimony of their 48 witnesses was informative.

The Deputy Minister of Global Affairs Canada, Marta Morgan, affirmed that Canada’s “absolute priority” with China is freeing Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, detained since December, 2018, and securing clemency for Robert Schellenberg. A thousand diplomatic meetings later, the U.S. has been the most supportive. But only 13 other friends and allies have voiced public support. Where are the others? Mr. Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, is right when she says that “words are no longer enough.”

Our China policy, said Ms. Morgan, is one of “comprehensive engagement.” But since December, 2018, only International Trade Minister Mary Ng has visited China. Now Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne acknowledges there is no prospect of freer trade.

Our current policy is neither comprehensive nor engaged. Parliament needs to weigh in. A special committee will help keep focus on our China relationship and, hopefully, come up with a strategy enjoying broad party support.

Witnesses in the last session came mostly from the civil service, scholarly and human rights communities. We need to hear from the business community as we rethink trade and investment. What do security experts think about disinformation, “wolf warriors” and Chinese military activity? And what about Hong Kong, home to at least 300,000 Canadians? Have we done an analysis of the new national security law? What can we do to reinforce “one country, two systems”?

Our allies are re-examining their China relationships. Despite its hawkish title – Communist China and the Free World’s Future – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently laid out a policy based on reciprocity and transparency that also called for collective action by democracies.

Like Canada, the Australians are enduring Chinese “coercive diplomacy”: hostages, trade sanctions, subversion and cyberintrusions. Their government and public policy institutions are looking at everything from technology to the subversive activities of Chinese networks. Australia led the Five Eyes intelligence partners in banning Huawei and ZTE from their 5G networks. Both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne have called out Chinese disinformation and cyberintrusions.

A 2019 British Foreign Affairs committee report has trenchant recommendations on China’s Belt and Road initiative; freedom of navigation in the South China Sea; and Chinese interference in U.K. affairs. Former British diplomat Charles Parton’s perceptive report for The Policy Institute describes the dilemma facing Western policy-makers: how both to co-operate with and to resist an authoritarian power with great economic and rising technological power. For Mr. Parton it comes down to four words: “Understand, Prepare, Resource, Unite.” The like-minded democracies, he argues, must act in concert. Former Australian diplomat Peter Varghese advocates an “engage and constrain” strategy to create a new equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific. Scholar-diplomat Christopher Bishop looks at case studies, including Chinese detention of the Garratts, and suggests negotiations with China will be long and difficult.

We need a China policy based on realism, one that is neither complacent nor paranoid. China is our second-largest trading partner. It is our second-largest source of foreign students. Nearly two million Canadians claim Chinese descent. A systemic examination of the relationship involving independent research will complement the work of Parliamentarians.

With freer trade now ditched and “comprehensive engagement” a joke, Mr. Champagne needs to speak on the China relationship. We need the same blunt language that then-foreign minister Chrystia Freeland employed when she addressed Parliamentarians on Canada’s foreign policy priorities in June, 2017.

Parliamentary committees get little attention but they are work horses of good government. In gathering information from ministers, civil servants, experts and stakeholders, committee hearings provide a vital public education role. Even with the inevitable venting and pontificating, their scrutiny results in better legislation and insightful reports.

When Parliament resumes, it should quickly reinstitute the special committee on Canada-China relations. And then as the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong observed, “let a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend.”

Throne Speech and Foreign Policy

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Foreign policy focus in new session should be on China, U.S., and human rights, say Parliamentarians

By NEIL MOSS      
‘The No. 1 [foreign policy] priority is our relationship with the United States,’ says Independent Senator Peter Boehm as the U.S. presidential election quickly approaches.
f Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

As Parliament returns for another session, MPs and Senators say they want to see a foreign policy focus on Canada’s fraught relationship with China, the ever-important relationship with the U.S., and the declining human rights situation around the world.

“It is time for Canada to assume—or reassume—its leadership role in the world,” said Liberal MP Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, B.C.), who served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the last parliamentary session.

She said more has to be done to fight authoritarianism around the world and protect human rights, including by strengthening multilateral institutions.

“You are seeing what is happening with Belarus. You are seeing what is happening with Hong Kong. You’ve seen what is happening in other parts of the world. And Canada needs to do more, I think, than saying, ‘Oh, that’s terrible. We don’t agree with it.’ We need to actually be looking at what steps we can take with other countries to put an end to it and to ensure that human rights and safety of those who are victims now of the kind of new world changes that are occurring,” Ms. Fry said.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee could bring together experts and analyze how Canada can meet the global challenges, she said.

“We need to show that we don’t just talk the talk, but we walk the walk,” she said. “This is urgent. We’re talking about urgency right now. You just have to look around the world and see what’s going on.”

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne (Saint-Maurice-Champlain, Que.) has condemned human rights violations in Belarus, as well as the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Canada is working with members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to investigate human rights violations in Belarus.

Ms. Fry said more has to be done to protect those being subject to human rights abuses while migrating throughout the world.

“We need to stop looking at ourselves and our vested self interest, because our vested self interest lies in the global self interest.”

Former Canadian ambassador Gilles Rivard, president of the Retired Heads of Mission Association, said Canada needs to take care of multilateral institutions.

“We are in quite a dramatic period,” said Mr. Rivard, who served as Canada’s deputy permanent representative at the UN from 2010 to 2013. “We seem to forget that we have these multilateral institutions because everyone is looking into their own courts to fix the solution.”

He said Canada needs to rebuild its “credibility and leadership” in strengthening multilateral organizations, Mr. Rivard said, especially if it wants to win a seat on the UN Security Council in the future.

Restarting the Canada-China Relations Committee

NDP MP Jack Harris (St. John’s East, N.L.), his party’s foreign policy critic, said his top priority is on restarting the Special House Committee on Canada-China Relations.

“We need the Canada-China Committee to be reinstated as a special committee and able to carry on its work, and include the evidence that has already been heard,” said Mr. Harris, adding that the committee has to be able to meet virtually.

Mr. Harris said the Canadian government should be open to receiving migrants from Hong Kong and broaden family reunification. He also said Canada needs to work with other countries to put pressure on China through Magnitsky sanctions.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said Ottawa needs a new policy on China that both the Liberals and Conservatives can get behind. He said it should be based on “realism,” and avoid “paranoia or complacency.” He added that it is his hope to see the Canada-China Committee restarted.

Former Canadian ambassador Jeremy Kinsman, who served as Canada’s envoy to Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, said while Canada does not want a new Cold War with China, it needs to be communicating with concerned partners “about how to ensure China and others play by universally agreed rules.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) has taken a tougher stance on China, which includes pitching a divestment from the Chinese economy and pushing to expel Chinese officials who “intimidate Canadians.”

New Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont.) wasn’t available for an interview last week.

Before the prorogation of Parliament, the House Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard testimony about China’s Uyghur minority, a large part of which has been incarcerated by the Chinese government. The committee was set to release a statement on the testimony it heard when Parliament was prorogued.

At the time, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta), his party’s human rights critic, said the subcommittee heard “clear-cut” evidence of genocide taking place.

NDP MP Heather McPherson (Edmonton Strathcona, Alta.), her party’s representative on the subcommittee, said it is “pretty universally agreed upon” that more needs to be done.

Activists and human rights experts encouraged Parliament to recognize the persecution of the Uyghurs by Chinese authorities as a genocide.

Canada-U.S. relationship remains No. 1 priority: Sen. Boehm

As the U.S. presidential election approaches on Nov. 3, Canada’s relationship with the United States will still be of central concern, despite the removal of U.S. national security tariffs on Canada aluminum exports and the new North American trade pact being in force, said Independent Senator Peter Boehm (Ontario), a former career diplomat.

“The No. 1 [foreign policy] priority is our relationship with the United States—it’s always our No. 1 priority—but as we get closer to the U.S. election, there will be the to and fro of the campaign and how we figure in that,” he said.

The top issues between the two countries will be the Canada-U.S. border and everything related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Canadian and American economies, he said, and the movement of goods and services across the border.

“The government is going to have to watch that very closely, and as committees are struck and reconstituted this will be a subject of some analysis, I would expect,” Sen. Boehm said.

If the Nov. 3 election produces a new administration, Sen. Boehm said the two countries will continue to have disputes over international trade.

Mr. Rivard echoed Sen. Boehm, agreeing that the Canada-U.S. relationship is the most important priority.

“There are so many issues that [the relationship] has be our [first] priority,” he said, noting the economy, the pandemic, and the border as examples.

Canada US relations

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Qu’adviendra-t-il des relations canado-américaines après le 3 novembre?

Les relations Canada-États-Unis ont rarement atteint un niveau aussi bas depuis que Donald Trump est au pouvoir. Mais qu’il obtienne ou non un deuxième mandat à la Maison-Blanche, la suite ne se passera pas sans heurts pour le pays. Et Ottawa doit s’y préparer.

Des drapeaux canadien et américain endommagés flottent dans la municipalité riveraine de Morrisburg, en Ontario

Marc Godbout (accéder à la page de l’auteur)

À la hauteur de Morrisburg sur la berge ontarienne, l’État de New York est facilement visible tellement la Voie maritime du Saint-Laurent y est étroite.

Tout près de la marina flottent deux drapeaux fatigués. L’unifolié est déchiré, celui des États-Unis effiloché. La tentation est forte d’y voir l’image de l’état d’une relation entre deux voisins.

Nous sommes si près. Et pourtant avec Trump et la pandémie, j’ai l’impression que nous sommes maintenant si loin , raconte Ann Rodney.

Cette grand-mère venue profiter du paysage, le temps d’un après-midi, est préoccupée. Je crains que nos relations ne reviennent jamais à ce qu’elles étaient avant. J’espère que je me trompe.

Une femme regarde de l’autre côté de la Voie maritime du Saint-Laurent où se trouve l’État de New York.


Il reste une cinquantaine de jours à la campagne. Autant de jours pendant lesquels le gouvernement Trudeau doit s’imposer une discipline de fer. L’ex-diplomate canadien Colin Robertson insiste sur la nécessité pour Ottawa de marcher sur la pointe des pieds jusqu’à la fin de la campagne présidentielle.

Il est primordial que le gouvernement canadien garde un profil très bas, car toute perception d’une intervention en faveur des démocrates va se retourner contre lui. Trump n’hésitera pas à s’en prendre au Canada. 

Ottawa doit donc éviter à tout prix le genre d’incident survenu avant l’élection présidentielle de 2000.

Les remarques faites à l’époque par l’ancien ambassadeur canadien à Washington, Raymond Chrétien, avaient contribué à miner le terrain des relations avec l’administration Bush.

Raymond Chrétien avait exprimé sa préférence pour Al Gore, le candidat démocrate. Or c’est George W. Bush qui l’avait emporté.

Notre jeu diplomatique devra être au sommet de sa forme comme jamais auparavant , avertit Colin Robertson. Et cela ne vaut pas juste pour cette campagne: Nous devrions nous préparer dès maintenant à un avenir beaucoup plus complexe, et ne pas attendre de voir qui gagnera en novembre. 

Une affiche située près de Cornwall en Ontario indique la direction à prendre pour se rendre aux États-Unis.


America First  aura défini la dynamique canado-américaine depuis bientôt quatre ans.

Le Canada a fait de grands efforts pour contrarier le moins possible le président Trump et pour éviter d’en faire un conflit personnel alors que l’avenir de l’ALENA se retrouvait en jeu.

Il va de soi que certaines politiques de Joe Biden s’alignent sur celles des libéraux de Justin Trudeau en matière de changement climatique notamment. Contrairement à Donald Trump, le Canada y trouverait aussi un promoteur du multilatéralisme.

Même si, aux yeux de plusieurs, une nouvelle administration à Washington représenterait une bouffée d’air frais à Ottawa, l’élection de Joe Biden aurait aussi des conséquences pour le Canada.

Le contexte de la pandémie est venu amplifier la défense des intérêts économiques américains en pleine élection présidentielle.

Si les approches de Donald Trump et de Joe Biden sont clairement différentes, tous deux promettent des politiques protectionnistes aux électeurs américains nostalgiques d’une économie qui n’existe plus.

Sur le plan du commerce, il n’y a pas de différence de fond , souligne l’avocat Peter Clark.

Joe Biden permettrait de rétablir la civilité et la stabilité dans les relations canado-américaines. Mais au-delà de cela, on ne doit pas se faire d’illusion et placer trop d’espoirs , considère ce négociateur commercial chevronné.

Nous aurons droit à la même pression sous une administration démocrate. Il ne faut pas s’attendre à un assouplissement parce que le portrait de l’emploi aux États-Unis ne va pas se redresser, du moins à court terme.

Peter Clark, négociateur commercial

L’histoire a maintes fois démontré que le Parti démocrate donne davantage dans le protectionnisme que le Parti républicain.

Made in All America, le plan démocrate, prévoit 400 milliards de dollars supplémentaires sur quatre ans pour l’achat de biens et services produits aux États-Unis. Priorité à la production nationale avec pour objectif la création de cinq millions de nouveaux emplois.

Relocalisations, protection contre les pratiques commerciales injustes, le candidat démocrate reprend certains des arguments économiques sur lesquels Donald Trump avait bâti sa victoire en 2016.

La campagne démocrate n’épargne pas le Canada. Joe Biden fait déjà la promotion de cette idée : Nous travaillerons avec les ports américains et les syndicats pour faire en sorte que les cargaisons à destination des États-Unis soient déchargées aux États-Unis et non dans les ports canadiens afin d’éviter les taxes portuaires. 

À Morrisburg, le passage des cargos et vraquiers sur la Voie maritime rappelle l’importance de ce maillon pour l’économie des deux pays.

Mais sur le quai, Jennifer Schearer fait part de sa perception face à la relation actuelle. J’ai l’impression qu’il y a un mur. On dirait que c’est de plus en plus pour soi d’abord chez ces deux voisins .

Elle se questionne en notant que le nouvel ALENA n’a ni empêché General Motors de fermer son usine d’Oshawa ni le président Trump de réimposer des tarifs punitifs sur les importations d’aluminium canadien. Alors à quoi sert cette relation? 

Relation spéciale?

Le spécialiste des affaires internationales David Carment y va de cette lecture : la suggestion que le Canada et les États-Unis ont toujours cette relation spéciale semble dépassée, voire naïve .

À son avis, les années Trump ont provoqué une transformation qui va persister  alors que la pandémie a démontré la nécessité pour le Canada d’entreprendre une sérieuse réflexion sur ses perspectives économiques et géopolitiques .

David Carment croit fermement qu’Ottawa doit revoir son approche vieille de trois décennies et apprendre à mieux naviguer dans une économie politique internationale instable, sans dépendre autant des États-Unis qui sont imprévisibles et peu fiables .

Sans aller aussi loin, l’ex-diplomate Colin Robertson prévoit qu’Ottawa sera bientôt confronté à des choix difficiles, même avec un nouveau gouvernement à Washington.

Pour les Américains, le point le plus important reste la défense et la sécurité. Ils s’attendent à beaucoup plus du Canada.

Colin Roberston, Institut canadien des affaires mondiales

Colin Robertson, qui a passé une bonne partie de sa carrière aux États-Unis, prévient que ces attentes ne changeront pas sous une présidence Biden. Il sera tout aussi déterminé à faire pression sur le Canada pour qu’il dépense davantage.

Cela ne peut faire autrement que d’exposer les lacunes canadiennes dans la défense du continent alors que des milliards sont nécessaires pour des infrastructures. Par exemple, le Système d’alerte du Nord doit être modernisé assez rapidement. Et en tardant à investir, Ottawa court le danger d’exaspérer Washington.

Les Russes testent notre défense et la Chine met déjà en oeuvre sa stratégie dans l’Arctique . Selon Colin Robertson, la stratégie de défense du gouvernement Trudeau de 2017 est déjà dépassée et sa politique pour l’Arctique annoncée l’an dernier est grandement inadéquate. Il n’est pas le seul à le croire.

Une des stations radars du Système d’alerte du nord dans l’Arctique canadien.


Le pays est-il prêt à l’issue du vote de novembre? Il dispose au moins de l’expérience des quatre dernières années.

Elles ont amené le gouvernement Trudeau, les provinces et différents acteurs à déployer des efforts colossaux pour préserver les liens entre le Canada et les États-Unis, en contournant la Maison-Blanche.

Quatre années supplémentaires de Donald Trump laisseraient des relations instables et incertaines.

Une victoire de Biden ne garantit pas pour autant le retour des beaux jours de cette relation, dans le contexte d’une Amérique divisée et d’un monde fort différent.

Trudeau Reset and Freeland as Finance Minister

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Freeland expected to keep playing big role on U.S. file despite move to financeThe Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to continue playing a key role in managing Canada’s relationship with the United States as the two countries look to restart their pandemic-ravaged economies.

The Liberal government isn’t saying whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will officially direct Freeland, who is also deputy prime minister, to continue serving as Canada’s point person with the U.S., a role she has held for more than three years.

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The prime minister first tapped Freeland to lead the federal government’s efforts in his mandate letter to her when she became foreign affairs minister in February 2017, and again when she was named deputy prime minister last fall. She had also been involved in that file when she was international trade minister, her first cabinet role.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne this week suggested other federal cabinet ministers will shoulder more of the burden as Freeland assumes her new duties, but added the final decision rests with Trudeau.

“We work as a whole of government to make sure that we best position Canada in that crucial relationship between Canada and the United States,” he told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“We will continue as we were doing and then the particular allocation, obviously that’s the prerogative of the prime minister. But I would say more generally, I think each and every one of us has a role to play in that very important relationship.”

Senior government sources would not speak on the record this week when asked whether Freeland will continue to be front and centre or whether other ministers — notably Champagne and International Trade Minister Mary Ng — will manage the file.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, those sources offered mixed messages.

Freeland’s appointment as lead minister coincided with U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand for a new North American free trade deal, which finally came into effect on July 1 following more than a year of tense, and sometimes acrimonious, negotiations.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said Freeland’s many contacts in the U.S., understanding of the American culture after having lived there as a journalist for years and her ability to make friends out of enemies served Canada well on the file.

It also helped shield Trudeau from Trump’s wrath when Ottawa wanted to push back on an issue, Robertson said, noting how Freeland only earlier this month blasted the White House’s decision to impose new aluminum tariffs on Canada.

“She was very sharp,” said Robertson, who is now vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “And I thought: ‘This is right. It’s exactly the right tone. But you don’t want the prime minister to do it because Trump is going to take offence.'”

Scotty Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian-American Business Council, nonetheless suggested there is some sense in reverting to the more traditional approach where no single minister is in charge now that the free trade talks are over.

“Because the relationship is so big and multifaceted, lots of people end up interacting with the U.S.,” Greenwood said.

“People were probably just sort of going through her or co-ordinating so nothing could inadvertently mess up the negotiation. But the negotiation is done.”

Whether Freeland remains the lead minister or not, both Greenwood and Robertson believed she will continue to play a big role in her new position, which will include leading the restart of Canada’s pandemic-ravaged economy.

They say that is because the Liberals’ plan for restarting the Canadian economy — including a heavy emphasis on tackling inequality and climate change — will require close co-ordination with the U.S., given the integrated nature of the two economies.

“The biggest bilateral task is going to be the economic rebound,” said Greenwood. “So she will play an important role.”

Robertson echoed that assessment, saying: “Based on what the prime minister, in terms of his reset and his green shift and ‘build back better,’ none of this will work unless we do this in tandem with the U.S.”

This report by The Canadian P

Border Reopening

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Easing of restrictions to non-U.S. travellers into Canada unlikely to be met with Trump backlash, could pave way for reopening of 49th parallel, say experts

By Neil Moss      
‘The core operating ideal within … Ottawa is evidence-based policymaking and there are clearly other jurisdictions out there besides the U.S. that have done a better job in containing [the virus],’ says Eric Miller.
A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair wouldn’t say if the government is exploring easing restrictions to non-U.S. travellers to Canada before the Canada-U.S. border is reopened to normal operations. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

With no progress towards reopening the Canada-U.S. border as the United States continues to be overwhelmed by COVID-19, experts say easing restrictions to allow non-U.S. foreign nationals to travel to Canada could be the first step in a phased reopening of the 49th parallel.

Despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s forceful defence of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, former diplomats told The Hill Times that a reopening with non-U.S. countries could take place without an Oval Office backlash as the restrictive immigration policies of the Trump administration favours a closed Canada-U.S. border.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of countries—particularly Europe and parts of East Asia—that Canada is going to open to far before they open to the U.S.,” said trade consultant Eric Miller, president of Rideau Potomac Strategy Group who worked on the Beyond the Border Action Plan, which sought to make Canada-U.S. border crossings more efficient.

Canada has been closed to non-U.S. nationals since mid-March due to the pandemic. An order was extended until Aug. 31 preventing non-American international travellers from coming to Canada. The restrictions aren’t a blanket ban, as some international travellers are allowed to enter Canada as long as they have a quarantine plan.

Mr. Miller said the Trump administration is unlikely to make a big deal of a Canadian reopening with Europe or East Asia because they don’t see having restrictions on the 49th parallel as a bad thing.

The Canadian government has restricted travel from non-U.S. countries since mid-March. Photograph courtesy of Flickr/Dan Zen

“If Canada lets in French and German and other EU citizens or lets Japanese citizens in, then that’s considered Canada’s business and it’s not something that I think the White House is going to react very negatively to,” said Mr. Miller, a former senior policy adviser at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

“The Trump administration sees a narrow path to victory [in the Nov. 3 presidential election] by doubling down on their core messages and part of doubling down on the core messages … is that [they] have the borders under control,” he said.

Despite some pressure from U.S. lawmakers who represent border regions, there hasn’t been a great push to allow Canadians and Americans to freely cross the border, with Canadian public opinion siding strongly against a return to normalcy as COVID-19 cases in the United States top five million with more than 160,000 deaths.

The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential crossers by joint agreement between the two governments since March 21. The initial agreement closed the border for 30 days, but the closure has been extended every month since, with the current closure ending on Aug. 21 if there isn’t another extension.

“The core operating ideal within the civil service in Ottawa is evidence-based policymaking and there are clearly other jurisdictions out there besides the U.S. that have done a better job in containing [the virus],” Mr. Miller said.

He said an easing of restrictions could be done based on the performance of individual countries in addressing COVID-19, which Canadian embassies around the world can help monitor on the ground.

He added that a potential reopening with some European countries could begin the conversation on how Canada can reopen its borders to the international community to establish the principles needed and work through the unresolved issues that will be helpful when it becomes a possibility to have a reopening of the Canada-U.S. border.

“If we wait for this to magically happen on its own or to go away, we’re going to be waiting a long time,” Mr. Miller said.

Experts say U.S. President Donald Trump’s reaction to a potential easing of Canadian restrictions to non-U.S. restrictions will be muted as his administration is in favour of border restrictions. White House photograph by Andrea Hanks

A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair (Scarborough Southwest, Ont.) wouldn’t say if the federal government would consider easing restrictions on non-U.S. nationals entering Canada before reopening the Canada-U.S. border.

“We brought forward significant restrictions at our borders to keep Canadians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. We all have a shared responsibility to flatten the curve, and our government continues to advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada and avoid all cruise ship travel. We will continue to do what is necessary to keep Canadians safe and will base our decisions on the best public health evidence available,” press secretary Mary-Liz Power said in an email.

Canada is one of 14 countries that have been allowed to travel to the EU since the beginning of July.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, vice-president at Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said it is possible that Canada could open up to some European countries that Canada feels has control over the pandemic.

“We’ll probably open up to some countries, but not all,” said Mr. Robertson, adding that it would make sense to open the Canada-U.S. border in a similar fashion with different regions reopening at different times.

“I think we are more likely to open to other countries before we open to the United States’ full border,” he said, noting that won’t happen for some time yet.

Mr. Robertson said the constant communication between Canadian and American officials allows for neither side to be surprised by developments in the other country.

In those conversations, Mr. Robertson said Canadian officials would be briefing their American counterparts on Canada’s thinking on easing restrictions to non-U.S. travellers and they would give advance notice if Canada made the decision to reopen travel with a country before the restrictions were loosened with the U.S.

Christopher Sands, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., said if Canada does ease restrictions for non-U.S. countries, there would be an understanding by American officials that a land border and an air border are two distinct considerations.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson says Canadian officials are likely having frequent conversations with their American counterparts and would give them advance notice if restrictions are eased. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

“Other borders are just so qualitatively different that the U.S. doesn’t see it in the same category [as the Canada-U.S. border],” Mr. Sands noted, although he said there could be a negative reaction from American officials if Canada eases restrictions on a country that is handling the pandemic worse than the United States.

Mr. Sands said there is a medical advantage for the closure of the Canada-U.S. border to prevent Americans without health coverage crossing into Canada in large numbers or Canadians crossing into the United States en masse if the U.S. develops a vaccine before they do.

But he said there should be clearer signs of how the two governments plan to have a phased reopening for the Canada-U.S. border.

He said a loosening of restrictions between Canada and a non-U.S. country could be used to influence how Canada and the United States move forward, adding that a a previously tested solution will be more palatable for Americans to accept amid the hyper-partisan reaction to the handling of the pandemic by the Trump administration and the fast-approaching U.S. presidential election.