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About Colin Robertson

A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson 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… Read more »

Pompeo Visit

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Trudeau and Pompeo urged to speak with one voice on China’s response to Hong Kong protest U.S. Secretary of State meets PM, Freeland today in Ottawa

As U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sits down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today, geopolitics watchers and at least one Hong Kong national are urging both leaders to speak with one voice in response to China’s actions regarding the democratic protest movement in Hong Kong.

“The global protests are top of mind for virtually every country in the world,” said Ben Rowswell, president of the Canadian International Council think tank. “And with a real risk of major bloodshed right now, we don’t know what is going to happen, but at least one of the potential scenarios is that the Chinese army will suppress those protests.”

Today’s visit is Pompeo’s first to Canada since taking on his current role. Pompeo will meet with both Trudeau and his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

At a news briefing Wednesday, the U.S. State Department told reporters in Washington the leaders are expected to discuss a range of issues, including the ongoing strife in Venezuela, the ratification of the new North American trade agreement and the detention of Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in China.

Rowswell said he expects Canada will continue to pressure the U.S. to urge China to release those detainees. But given Canada’s strong interest in keeping the situation in Hong Kong from getting any worse — 300,000 Canadian citizens live there — Rowswell said he also predicts Canada will encourage the U.S. to speak with it in “a single voice” on the situation in the former British colony.

The protests in Hong Kong have mainly been peaceful, although there have been some violent episodes. As the protests have dragged on, Chinese troops have assembled at a stadium in Shenzhen, the city that links Hong Kong to China’s mainland — raising fears of an armed intervention by Beijing.

Critics have highlighted U.S. President Donald Trump’s weak stance on the pro-democracy protests and Beijing’s potential show of force.

Freeland, along with EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, has expressed support for the rights of Hong Kong’s citizens to peaceful assembly. Both also have called for dialogue among all stakeholders.

That prompted a backlash from the Chinese Embassy, which said in an online statement that Canada should “immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.”

“Under the current situation, the Canadian side should be cautious on its words and deeds regarding the Hong Kong related issue,” said the statement from an unnamed spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Canada.

Cherie Wong, who was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Canada, said she’ll be watching the bilateral meeting closely.

“Both (in) Canada and the U.S. there are large amounts of Hong Kongers who are watching the news and hoping our government will use the power that it has to advocate,” Wong said. “Especially in these countries where freedom and democracy are core values.”

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson is also calling for a unified Canadian-American stance on Hong Kong ahead of the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France this weekend. Robertson said Canada, the U.S. and its allies should not be afraid of upsetting China.

“China takes umbrage in anything,” Robertson said. “Anything that we do that mentions China they are not going to like. But we have to let them know. If we don’t speak out, we are not true to our values.”

Hong Kong and the G7

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The joint statement on Hong Kong by the Canadian and European Union foreign ministers calling for restraint, engagement and preservation of fundamental freedoms is a start. As a next step, why not create an eminent persons’ group to keep tabs on Hong Kong and make regular, public reports to G7 leaders?

Their terms of reference would be to monitor adherence to the two international covenants that transferred Hong Kong to China in 1997. The Sino-British Joint Declaration, agreed in 1984 by Deng Xiaoping guaranteed Hong Kong’s autonomy – “one country, two systems”– and basic liberties for 50 years. The Basic Law of 1990 defined the nuts and bolts of those liberties, including the rule of law, an independent judiciary and a free press.

Canada could appoint someone like Lloyd Axworthy, who has just done excellent service for Canada monitoring the Ukrainian elections, or former UN ambassador and justice minister Allan Rock, or former prime minister and foreign minister Joe Clark. Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright or Condoleezza Rice would be excellent United States representatives.

As chair, why not the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten? Mr. Patten worked strenuously to advance liberty in Hong Kong despite opposition from Beijing, business interests in Hong Kong and in London. For them, as with some in the British Foreign Office, the relationship with China eclipsed any obligation to Hong Kong. Lord Patten knows the lay of the land.

What happens to Hong Kong matters to Canada.

Canadian links to Hong Kong date back to the founding of the colony. Where once Canadian Pacific ships sailed into its harbour, there are now daily flights into its splendid island airport. Nearly 2000 Canadians fought in defence of Hong Kong in 1941, with the graves of 283 buried at Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery.

We probably have the largest Hong Kong Chinese diaspora, many of whom migrated to Canada after Tiananmen Square. They bring entrepreneurship and strengthen our trade and investment ties throughout Asia. With at least 300,000 Canadians living and working in Hong Kong, ours is likely the largest expatriate group. Many people from Hong Kong are alumni of Canadian schools and colleges. Hong Kong is still the easiest place for a Canadian to enter the Asian market and its Canadian Chamber of Commerce is one of the biggest outside of Canada.

Hong Kong is an international city and it draws its vitality from its internationalization. It is a member of the World Trade Organization and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. In the next enlargement of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership, Canada should encourage Hong Kong’s membership. Bringing Hong Kong (and Taiwan) into the World Health Organization would also make sense as it lies near the epicenter of flu-like pandemics emerging from China.

China opposes any outside efforts to support Hong Kong as foreign interference. They have already declared the Joint Declaration to be an “historical document” without practical significance. They claim that foreign agitation is behind the current demonstrations. But keeping the spotlight on what is happening is the best way to check rash Chinese intervention and to preserve liberty in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is the only example of a decolonization deliberately accompanied by less democracy and weaker protection of civil liberties. “This,” wrote Mr. Patten in his elegant memoir East and West, “was a cause for profound regret.”

What motivates the millions of Hong Kongers participating in the mostly peaceful demonstrations is their belief that they should be able to run their affairs, as they were promised. This includes choosing those who govern them in free and fair elections. It means not being extradited to China where the rule of law does not apply.

As the guardians of international covenants and the rules-based order, G7 leaders have a duty to Hong Kong. As the champions of democracy they have an obligation to tell Chinese leadership that we value not just economic liberties but political ones as well.

Ambassador David MacNaiughton’s legacy

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‘In-depth’ understanding of Congress, Capitol Hill outreach to be part of MacNaughton’s D.C. legacy, say experts

By Neil Moss      
David MacNaughton ‘made it a priority’ to understand who the key U.S. influencers were and which Canadian would be best to deliver the message, says former PMO Canada-U.S. war room staffer Diamond Isinger.
Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate played a key role in advocating that Donald Trump abandon steel and aluminum tariffs he had placed on Canada. The Hill Times file photograph

When David MacNaughton departs his post as Canada’s ambassador to the United States at the end of the month, he will be remembered for the important links he made with Congress, say trade experts and politicos.

In the midst of the precarious renegotiation of NAFTA with the volatile Trump administration, Canada shifted its eyes towards Capitol Hill, under encouragement from Mr. MacNaughton that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and his cabinet ought to engage with U.S. legislators directly.

“I do think that will be part of MacNaughton’s legacy,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat.

“While others appreciated it, he realized it was the only way we’re going to succeed in saving the NAFTA, we had to work around the administration,” said Mr. Robertson, who sits on the international trade deputy minister’s NAFTA advisory council.

David MacNaughton formed a ‘very positive’ relationship with his American counterpart, Kelly Craft, who had connections to key U.S. lawmakers. Photograph courtesy of Twitter

Mr. MacNaughton took his post at the Canadian Embassy on Washington, D.C.’s iconic Pennsylvania Avenue—a stone’s throw away from Capitol Hill—in March 2016, during the closing days of the Obama administration, but the incoming Trump administration would complicate his job.

As Canada renegotiated NAFTA and implored the U.S. to remove tariffs on steel and aluminum, cabinet ministers, like Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.), met with influential American lawmakers including Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate’s second highest-ranking official as president pro tempore, and Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer, chair of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee.

When Mr. Trudeau was in Washington in June meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the progress towards implementing the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), he also met with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and was scheduled to meet with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but the meeting was cancelled after Mr. McConnell was called to the White House to be briefed on rising tensions with Iran. He later talked to the Kentucky Senator on the phone. During the NAFTA renegotiations in 2017, Mr. Trudeau met with Mr. McConnell and then-Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Following the removal of tariffs, Ms. Freeland took to Twitter to note Mr. Grassley’s contribution in advocating for the removal of tariffs. In April, Mr. Grassley wrote an op-ed arguing that Mr. Trump had to end the tariffs or else the USMCA could not pass through Congress, which has the authority over implementing trade deals.

Mr. Robertson said a “signal change” was made by Mr. MacNaughton with increased Congressional outreach, where prior the majority of meetings Canadian cabinet members took in Washington would be with their administration counterparts.

“That is how the game is played in the United States and that gives us an advantage because we understand the system now,” he said, adding that he thinks it will continue after Mr. MacNaughton leaves.

Diamond Isinger, a former staffer in the PMO’s Canada-U.S. war room, said Mr. MacNaughton made it a priority to understand Americans.

“Ambassador MacNaughton really made it a priority to understand U.S. influencers, to try to identify who the best interlocutors or relationship holders in Canada would be for those individuals and make sure they were hearing Canadian messages,” she said, adding he had an “in-depth” understanding of Congress and the U.S. government, as well as the Canadian government, helping him to sync U.S. and Canadian priorities.

“MacNaughton spent a lot of time with a lot of members of Congress, with a lot of Senators,” Ms. Isinger said. He would meet personally with members of Congress, as well as set up meetings with between them and cabinet ministers.

Eric Miller, current president of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group and a former senior policy adviser at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., said before Mr. MacNaughton assumed his post, Congressional outreach would be performed by embassy staff and not the ambassador.

“It wasn’t just the guy responsible for Congressional relations going to see [Congressional] staff, you had MacNaughton building really close relationships with U.S. lawmakers and leadership in both Houses,” Mr. Miller said, who also sits on the international trade deputy minister’s advisory council.

Along with Mr. MacNaughton, the embassy still has a group of staffers working on Congressional outreach. As of early this year, The Hill Times understands that there were nine staffers in that group, which has grown over time as the government has recognized the importance of Congress. They track Congressional priorities and understand the dynamics of the current U.S. political climate. They also give strategic advice on how Canada can best deliver its message to members of Congress.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in June. Photograph courtesy of Facebook

Within government, credit for the outreach strategy is up for debate. One government official told The Hill Times in April that it was a “whole of government approach” that stretched from the PMO to Global Affairs to the embassy, which had “new significance” after the creation of the PMO’s Canada-U.S. war room in early 2017. The official said Global Affairs played a leading role in it “to some extent.”

But Mr. Miller said he thinks Congressional outreach is a part of Mr. MacNaughton’s legacy in D.C., though he said more impactful than that was the role Mr. MacNaughton played maintaining Canada’s relationship with its southern neighbour at a time of “incredible uncertainty.”

During the renegotiations, talks had broken down and personal attacks were lobbed by the White House at Mr. Trudeau.

Following a testy G7 summit in Charlevoix, Que., in 2018, Mr. Trump, angered by statements Mr. Trudeau made at his concluding press conference—saying Canadians will not be “pushed around” and that U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum were “kind of insulting”—called Mr. Trudeau “meek and mild” and “very dishonest and weak.” Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said Mr. Trudeau “betrayed” Mr. Trump and “should have known better,” and his trade adviser Peter Navarro took to U.S. cable news to say there was a “special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out of the door.”

Along with USMCA negotiator Steve Verheul, Mr. MacNaughton is credited with being the most important figure in the successful renegotiation of NAFTA, according to another government official, operating behind the scenes instead of in public for all to see, and helping reduce heightened emotions.

In short order, he was able to understand the dynamic of the Trump White House and who held influence, the official remarked.

MacNaughton and Craft had ‘very positive’ relationship

Mr. Miller called the relationship between Mr. MacNaughton and now-former U.S. ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft “very positive,” which is “absolutely essential” to have between the two countries’ ambassadors.

The way in which Ms. Craft’s connections were leveraged will be the legacy of the MacNaughton-Craft partnership, said Sarah Goldfeder in an email, a principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group and a former special assistant to two U.S. ambassador to Canada.

In a statement Aug. 9, Ms. Craft said Mr. McNaughton is “an admirable counterpart, a fierce negotiator, and above all, a cherished friend.”

Ms. Craft has been confirmed by the Senate to become the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Mr. Miller suggested that relationship was most important when dealing with Mr. McConnell, as Ms. Craft’s husband, coal baron Joe Craft, is a top donor to the Senator. Both Ms. Craft and Mr. McConnell are Kentucky natives.

“[Ms. Craft] no doubt reassured [Mr. McConnell] that MacNaughton was a straight shooter and some one you could work with,” Mr. Miller said, “who fought for the interests of his country, but ultimately was pragmatic and could make a deal.”

Mr. Robertson said he couldn’t think of another recent U.S. ambassador with such connections in both the administration and Congress.

“[Craft] played in a different league,” he said, taking issue with those who criticized her attendance record in Ottawa.

“What you want in an American ambassador is somebody to pick up the call and get through to the White House,” Mr. Robertson said. “Given the relationship we are in, it’s much more important that we have a [U.S.] ambassador [in Ottawa] that can get through to the key players and have their confidence.”

Sharpie Diplomacy

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Trudeau’s response to Trump’s Sharpie diplomacy ‘gave as good as it got’: US-Canada expert
By Abigail Bimman
Global National Ottawa Correspondent Global News

WATCH ABOVE: It’s being called “Sharpie diplomacy.” U.S. President Donald Trump has apparently sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau handwritten notes more than once. As Abigail Bimman explains, the Canadian embassy thought one message was a prank.In an act of non-traditional “Sharpie diplomacy”, U.S. president Donald Trump sent at least two handwritten notes to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau back in 2017, according to Axios.

A Canadian government official tells Global News the reports in Axios are “not inaccurate.”

The president ripped off the cover of a May 2017 Bloomberg Businessweek featuring Trudeau that asked whether he was “the Anti-Trump,” according to Axios. Trump took a silver Sharpie to it and wrote something like “Looking good! Hope it’s not true!” and mailed it to the Canadian embassy in Washington.

Canadian ambassador David MacNaughton apparently thought it was a prank at first — but was told by the White House it was indeed a message from the president.

WATCH: David MacNaughton talks ‘mixed emotions’ leaving U.S. ambassador role

In December of that year, when relations had become more tense over the negotiation of the new NAFTA trade deal, Axios reports Trump sent Trudeau a document showing the U.S. had a trade deficit with Canada, and writing something on the document like “not good” — again with a Sharpie.

Trump’s numbers only included the United States’ deficit in goods trade, and ignored the surplus in services, which, overall, created a surplus for the U.S. This was outlined by the United States’ own numbers, from the United States Trade Representative. Around the same time, Trump told a rally in Florida the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada. Trudeau wrote back, telling Trump his numbers were off.

Trudeau included one of the USTR’s documents that backed him up, circled a number showing a surplus, and drew a smiley face beside it.

One Canadian government official speaking on background tells Global News there wasn’t a second Sharpie volley from Trump as reported by Axios, but confirms the prime minister did send a note in response to the rally, adding it was handwritten on card stock with official letterhead. That source says the Bloomberg cover note was seen as classic Trump in written form, and says, if anything, the Canadian government saw it as amusing.

A second government source said the overall reports in Axios “are not inaccurate.” A third, meanwhile, also speaking on background, sent Global News the same statement that ran in the Axios story.

“We’re not going to comment on whether or what paper was exchanged between our two countries. There was a lot of back and forth. That said, it is certainly true that there were disagreements between our two countries about the figures, and we repeatedly pointed to USTR and US Commerce’s own figures. On the Bloomberg cover, no comment, but we don’t deny it.”

WATCH: Trudeau says U.S. already enjoys massive trade surplus with Canada on steel

The White House did not respond to a Global News request for comment.

“Presidents do from time to time go off script — Obama and his famous trip through the Ottawa market to buy cookies — all of these things are things that throw us off,” U.S.-Canada expert Laura Dawson told Global News. The head of the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute says writing a handwritten note on its own is not reinventing the wheel — former US President Bill Clinton, for example, was known for his handwritten letters.

“They also reflect the fact that the president is a human being. Not highly scripted, not highly predictable and in the case of this president, extremely unpredictable. And I think Canada’s probably getting it about right in terms of how to respond,” Dawson said.

“I think what they decided to do was probably best of both worlds. It was more formal than a Sharpie marker response, but it was still friendly, it still had an emoji, and most importantly it gave as good as it got. So it stayed friendly in tone, but it did remind the president that hey, the U.S. has a trade surplus with Canada.”

Former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson, tells Global News he had previously heard of Trump communicating in an “unconventional fashion,” and says it underlines the fact that Canada, and the rest of the world, has had to adjust to this president.

But in the face of “huge challenge,” Robertson says he thinks the Trudeau government has done well with the U.S. relationship overall, referencing NAFTA negotiations and threats to cars, steel, aluminum and uranium.

“I think Trudeau and his team worked very hard to create relationships with those around Trump and to go around Trump through his base by using our networks of consuls-general, working with premiers, provincial legislators and, in D.C., having minsters and MPs work their congressional counterparts.

“I think that is a permanent change in how we do business and I credit David MacNaughton with quietly steering this effort as our quarterback in the field.”

Canadian Ambassador MacNaughton, meanwhile, just announced he is resigning at the end of August.

While Trump was critical of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in public during NAFTA negotiations, Axios reports his comments went much further behind closed doors.

In September 2018, Trump told a news conference, “We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada. We don’t like their representative very much.”

But Axios reports Trump called Freeland a “nasty woman” in private.

When asked about this, Freeland’s spokesperson sent Global News a statement that didn’t directly address the allegation.

“It is our duty as a government to stand up for the national interest and for our values. What matters is the results we achieve for Canadians,” wrote Adam Austen.

“In the NAFTA negotiations, we resisted onerous U.S. demands and succeeded in getting a good new deal, which retains privileged access for Canadians to the US market.”

Austen points out that Canada was successful in having the US tariffs on steel and aluminum lifted, “while these tariffs remain in place for most other countries.”

— With files from Mike Le Couteur

UK and Canada and BREXIT

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Inexperience of British trade team created ‘frustration’ during early talks for a potential Canada-U.K. pact, experts say

By NEIL MOSS      
Rideau Potomac Strategy Group’s Eric Miller says ‘a number’ of Canadians have been offered positions on the British team, but turned them down due to the inadequate salary being offered.

Before Canada-U.K. preliminary trade talks cooled, the inexperience of the British negotiation team complicated the discussions, observers say.

“They have never done this before,” said Eric Miller, a former senior policy adviser to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and current head of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group.

The United Kingdom has not negotiated a trade deal since it entered the European community in the 1970s, and with a potential hard Brexit nearing, a group of inexperienced trade negotiators have to complete trade deals with numerous countries, including Canada.

“They’ve been desperately trying to put together a trade negotiation infrastructure. … It’s not that they don’t have smart people or capacity—they’ve got plenty of that—it’s just trade negotiations are their own distinct beast and having a mechanism to advance them is something that is developed over time,” he said.

Anthony Cary, who served as British high commissioner to Canada from 2007 to 2010 and now heads the annual Canada-U.K. Council, said the experienced negotiators that Britain does have who worked for the European Commission might not be viewed favourably by the current government.

“The U.K. does have experienced negotiators who have been working in Brussels, but they might not be welcome in Whitehall at the moment, even if they were prepared to help deliver a policy that most of them deplore. The neutrality of the British civil service is under intense pressure. Ministers and their political teams give [the] impression [that] they value True Belief over expertise or impartial advice,” he said in an email.

The inexperience has frustrated the now-halted early talks, trade observers say.

Canada entered exploratory talks with Britain over a potential free trade deal for when the U.K. makes it long-delayed departure from the European Union in 2017, but those talks have since slowed. Formal trade discussions can’t take place until Britain officially leaves the EU. The discussions cooled after Britain released a “temporary list” on March 13 in which it was reported any country could have 87 per cent tariff-free access to the British market for products on the list without any need for equal tariffs cuts.

Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business, said there was “frustration” on the Canadian side due to the inexperience.

He said the lack of experience can “grind negotiations to a halt,” due to unfamiliarity with managing political masters, and the lack of structures for interdepartmental co-ordination.

Mr. Cary said the inexperience gap can be “frustrating” for both sides, with misunderstanding and small issues being blown out of proportion and becoming “major sticking points.”

Brian Kingston, vice-president of international and fiscal policy at the Business Council of Canada, said that Britain was hampered by then-Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox’s “extremely ambitious” plan to roll over 40 trade deals the “second after” Brexit.

Canadian negotiators are typically focused on one agreement at a time.

“You can dedicate all your time to it, and you can make sure that you are fully cognizant of everything that’s happening,” Mr. Kingston said, adding that it created a capacity issue for the Brits, when they were having trade talks with Japan, Korea, and others, at the same time they were holding preliminary trade discussions with Canada.

A U.K. Department for International Trade spokesperson said Canada and the U.K. have agreed to work towards a “seamless transition of [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement] CETA,” and the U.K. is committed in doing so.

“We are continuing to work on securing continuity with other countries. Last month, we reached agreement in principle with Korea and a continuity trade agreement was signed on July 18 with six Central American countries. Once the Korea agreement is signed, we will have agreements with countries covering 64 per cent of our trade for which we are seeking continuity,” the spokesperson said.

Boris Johnson became the newest British prime minister on July 24. He has promised that the U.K. will leave the EU after Oct. 31, even if there is no deal.

Britain’s new Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab reiterated Mr. Johnson’s stance while speaking to reporters in Toronto on Aug. 6 alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.), but added that having a withdrawal agreement would be preferable.

Colin Robertson, middle, says Global Affairs’ trade team is ‘an area of Canadian competence and expertise.’ The Hill Times file photograph

British cabinet minister Michael Gove—responsible for preparations for a potential hard Brexit—is blaming the EU for refusing to negotiate, according to the BBC. A European Commission spokesperson in Brussels responded that the EU is open to talks, but its position hasn’t changed, Bloomberg reported.

A hard Brexit would create uncertainty for Canadian exports to Britain.

The terms of a Canada-U.K. trade pact would be influenced by the terms of a withdrawal agreement, a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson told The Hill Times. If a withdrawal agreement was reached, Canada would allow the U.K. to remain party to CETA. Even if there is no transitionary trade deal, Canada has been promised custom-free access to 95 per cent of all tariff lines, the spokesperson said.

A lack of ‘continuity’ defined early trade talks between Canada and Britain

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and trade negotiator on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, said British negotiators gave Canada some attention, but would then would disappear.

The situation was being compounded, as Britain’s best negotiators were preoccupied with the Brexit negotiations, Mr. Robertson said, and some of the British negotiators who may have been present at a meeting with Canadian officials disappeared to focus on another country or Britain’s EU exit.

“The continuity wasn’t there,” Mr. Robertson said.

The inexperience of Britain’s trade negotiators is highlighted when compared to the Canadian team—led by chief negotiator Steve Verheul—that has negotiated CETA, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and the new NAFTA deal, among other smaller free trade deals. Doug Forsyth, a director general of market access co-ordination at Global Affairs Canada, will take the technical lead in future talks with Britain, trade observers say. Mr. Forsyth was previously a director of trade negotiations at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“What Canada has done since the late ’80s is invest in having a cadre of very smart [and] knowledgable people on all aspects of trade,” Mr. Miller said.

This is an area of Canadian competence and expertise,” Mr. Robertson said. “And in tough negotiations, I do think that makes a difference.”

Mr. Miller said “a number” of Canadians have been offered positions on the British team, but turned them down due to an inadequate salary being offered. Mr. Robertson said Britain tried to hire one of Canada’s “most senior” trade negotiators.

Other prominent Canadians have publicly offered their assistance to the British government. Former prime minister Stephen Harper tweeted on June 29 that he would be “willing to assist whoever serves as the next leader of the UK Conservative Party on trade matters, should they wish. There is a lot to learn from Canada’s strong record in this area.” Former interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose also said she was ready to help, after British media reported that she was among those recruited by U.K. Conservative leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt.

Crawford Falconer has been Britain’s chief trade negotiation adviser since 2017. He previously served as New Zealand’s chief negotiator.

Mr. Cary said compiling a “battalion” of trade negotiators can’t be done in short order, and in the meantime they have brought in “expensive trade consultants.”

Peter Clark, a trade-focused consultant at Grey, Clark, Shih, and Associates and a former trade official for the Canadian government, said using the inexperience of the British side would be an “easy excuse” as to why talks have been slow to develop.

He added that it doesn’t matter how experienced a trade team could be if the politicians get involved.

“When we did NAFTA 2, we had really, really experienced people and the shots were being called by the politicians, and we got a pretty lousy deal,” Mr. Clark said.

He said if both sides of a trade teams are experienced, it is easier procedurally to negotiate a deal. If one side is more inexperienced it will take more time to educate the other.

“It’s not pulling the wool over their eyes.”

China: Mary Ng, Guy St. Jacques and David Mulroney

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Given the deep and tense chill in the Canada-China relationship, it seems a bit incongruous for a cabinet minister visiting Beijing to tweet about ice cream.Yet that’s just what Small Business and Export Promotion Minister Mary Ng did at a World Economic Forum meeting in early July. There was no public comment about China’s trade embargoes, which have kneecapped our canola, beef and pork industries; nothing about democratic rights in Hong Kong; nothing about Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the two Canadians who have now spent seven months in jail in China, ostensibly in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Now come revelations that a senior Global Affairs Canada official, reportedly at the instigation of the Prime Minister’s Office, asked our former ambassadors to clear their public commentary with the department. When opposition parties called for parliamentary hearings into the allegations, the Trudeau government used its majority to vote them down.

The federal government looks committed to hearing no evil, seeing no evil and doing nothing on the China file, for fear of further upsetting Beijing. That is no policy for Canada.

Without parliamentary hearings, questions remain. The PMO has denied the allegations, but if the request did emerge from the PMO, was it initiated by the Privy Council Clerk, as head of the public service, the national security adviser or the deputy ministers at Global Affairs?

With a federal election just months away, this only feeds the Conservative impression that the public service leans Liberal. Worse, it’s a sign that Justin Trudeau’s government seems to be learning all the wrong things from the Chinese. The guardrails between our politicians, public service and judiciary are fundamental to democracy, and this is a norm that needs to be respected by all parties. One would have thought the government had learned from recent controversies, too: Ignoring norms has already cost the government a clerk of the privy council, a national security adviser and an unfairly keelhauled vice-chief of the defence staff.

We need a realistic, not a romantic, China policy. It should start with the recognition that China is an authoritarian state, a strategic competitor and systemic rival. It will never follow Western democratic norms because that would destabilize the Communist Party – the root and base of the People’s Republic of China.

We have to contain what even Mr. Trudeau acknowledges is China’s “aggressive” and “assertive” behaviour. We need to deter Chinese efforts, as reported by our intelligence agencies, to destabilize our democratic elections. We need to engage, not just for trade and investment, but to ensure peaceful co-existence and detente. Otherwise, China will continue to turn the screws: seafood may be next.

For self-respect – we are, after all, a Group of Seven and Group of 20 country – we need to push back.

First, we should launch an appeal to the World Trade Organization over China’s illegal actions against our canola, beef and pork. We need to encourage like-minded countries to join us, starting with the United States, which got us into this mess by asking us to arrest Ms. Meng.

We should also support Taiwan in its application to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Keeping the vibrant democracy out of international institutions just because China wants it that way no longer makes sense.

Let’s also put the spotlight on China’s abysmal human-rights record, starting with Hong Kong. Canada has one of the world’s largest diasporas of Hong Kongers, many of whom sought Canadian citizenship after the Tiananmen Square massacre. We invested in Hong Kong’s democratic institutions and we need to do so again. We helped organize the Lima Group, to tackle the crisis in Venezuela. We’ve hosted a conference focused on democratic reform in Ukraine. Why can’t we do something similar about China’s incursions?

And then there are the million-plus incarcerated Uyghurs in China. While we practise reconciliation with Indigenous people, Beijing enforces re-education. We are committed to multilateralism, so why not take advantage of multilateral institutions such as the UN Human Rights Commission?

We need to hit those calling the shots in the Communist Party. We should lift the visas of Chinese students in Canada who are related to party officials. A Canadian education is a valued commodity in China.

A strategic approach to China means thinking about the long game. Where do we want to wind up? What are our assets and vulnerabilities, our overriding objectives and goals? Where do the pieces fit together? Engagement, containment and deterrence should be the guiding principles. Trying to muzzle our China ambassadors – foreign policy experts – is not the way to achieve a better way forward.

The controversy over phone calls made to two former Canadian diplomatsasking them to “check in” with Global Affairs before commenting on China policy reached its inevitable conclusion Tuesday, when the Liberals used their majority to vote down the Opposition’s call for Parliamentary hearings into the affair.

The Conservatives and other critics saw the calls as attempts to silence David Mulroney and Guy Saint-Jacques, both of whom served as Canada’s ambassador to China and are regularly called upon by the news media to comment on this country’s frozen relations with Beijing.

It was a clumsy move on the part of the Trudeau government, one that preserved its losing streak when it comes to exerting pressure on the wrong people.

But Global Affairs has since apologized and said its intention was never to muzzle the diplomats. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has also apologized, at least to Mr. Saint-Jacques. In the absence of parliamentary theatrics, let’s move on to the main event.

What remains, and is the critical issue here, is the fact that Ottawa doesn’t have a visible policy for dealing with China in the wake of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last December. The Chinese businesswoman is currently out on bail and living in a mansion in Vancouver while fighting an extradition request from the United States.

Beijing responded to Ms. Meng’s arrest by jailing two Canadian citizens on bogus national-security charges, moves that amount to political hostage-takings. China also retaliated by suspending all canola imports from Canada, as well as beef and pork imports.

To date, the Trudeau government’s response has been to protest the arrests and seek moral support from allies, including the less-than-reliable Trump administration in the United States. But Ottawa hasn’t taken any retaliatory measures, which has left a void for commentators to suggest actions that would show a little spine.

Mr. Mulroney, for instance, advised against non-urgent travel to China and suggested Canadian tourists avoid “a repressive detention state” – a phrase accurately describing today’s China, but which was raised in his unwelcome phone call from Global Affairs.

Another former diplomat, writing in The Globe and Mail this week, said Ottawa should consider withholding visas for students related to members of China’s ruling Communist Party, among other get-tough measures.

And then there’s the fact Canada imports at least twice as much, in dollar terms, from China as it exports to it. China, in fact, buys only about 5 per cent of Canada’s exports, the vast majority of which – 76 per cent – go to the United States.

In other words, Canada has the leverage to ban targeted Chinese imports that might sting the leadership in Beijing the same way Beijing’s carefully targeted bans on Canadian canola and meat are making the Trudeau government wince.

That’s precisely what Ottawa did after U.S. President Donald Trump put tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum in 2018; it retaliated with tariffs on products, such as bourbon and prepared foods, made in key Republican states.

It’s odd that Ottawa was more willing to play hardball with its biggest trading partner and most important ally, while it treats China with unexplained deference and caution.

This could well be because, in spite of all of Mr. Trump’s many flaws, his country is not an amoral and authoritarian prison state that is entirely detached from the rule of law. The United States largely follows the rules, and it has independent courts where complaints can be heard.

China, on the other hand, has no limits on government power, no law and no compunction about hurting smaller countries that displease it. As an opponent, it outmatches Canada in every category. It is a grizzly bear to our field mouse.

It may be that Ottawa has chosen not to poke the bear while it negotiates in the background. In doing so, the Trudeau government has correctly stuck to its guns about arresting Ms. Meng, and has not given in to calls to summarily overturn the rule of law and let her leave Canada.

But in the absence of any outward signs of progress, that policy is under fire from those experienced in Chinese relations, who think more can be done, and from Canadians who don’t like seeing their fellow citizens being held hostage.

It would be useful to know whether the Trudeau government is playing its hand well, or simply playing dead.

Saskatoon / 650 CKOM

11:00 – Is Canada’s federal government taking a page out of China’s playbook and blurring the lines between politicians, the public service, and the judiciary? After the Trudeau government was accused of trying to muzzle former diplomats and voted down an investigation into the matter, former diplomat Colin Robertson says yes. Robertson also says Trudeau’s inaction on our trade dispute with China is no kind of long-term strategy, and we need to push back. He joins John now to talk about how Canada should be tackling our dispute with the Asian superpower.

LIVE: Colin Robertson, former diplomat and a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Trudeau and the G20

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Is Canada back? Next week’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, will measure Justin Trudeau’s weight and influence on the international stage.

The tests for the Prime Minister won’t be in the plenary session, in which leaders must come to grips with “intensifying” trade protectionism, but in what happens in the corridors and pull-aside meetings.

The first test will be whether Mr. Trudeau can convince Chinese President Xi Jinping to let up on Canada. We want our hostages freed, the canola embargo lifted and no more harassment of our meat and pork shipments. The Chinese want Meng Wanzhou returned and telecommunications giant Huawei eligible for our 5G procurement.

Improving relations will require creativity. Why not appoint former prime minister Jean Chrétien as a special envoy, as Brian Mulroney has proposed? The Chinese trust his straightforwardness. Get some “track-two” dialogue going through alternative, but reliable conduits such as the University of Alberta’s China Institute and the Asia Pacific Foundation. Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye was a problem, and when he departs later this month, both countries can name new ambassadors to restart the meetings between ministers and senior officials, a process that has been reportedly stalled.

Let’s also look for areas where we can work together. Climate is an obvious one. Another less evident one is through sports diplomacy, which appeared fairly effective during the South Korean Olympics in 2018. The Chinese want to do well at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and our “Own the Podium”is a model that has gotten proven results. The Chinese are also devoting more attention to those with disabilities, and they can learn a lot from Canada’s approach.

Mr. Xi was one of the first leaders that Mr. Trudeau met when he made his international debut as Prime Minister. That meeting, at the G20 summit in Turkey, set into motion what was to become a framework agreement for closer economic relations. But Chinese Premier Li Keqiang subsequently rejected Mr. Trudeau’s progressive trade agenda. Mr. Trudeau should speak to Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Mulroney about working successfully with the Chinese.

The second test for Mr. Trudeau will be how well our trade goals can be advanced.

He needs to secure a commitment from European leaders that CETA member-state ratification is a priority. With the new Trans-Pacific Partnership now in effect, he needs to sell the world on Canadian food and services. We also need buy-in for the Canadian-led initiative to reform the World Trade Organization. The United States has blocked the appointment of new judges to the WTO because they believe – with some justification – that the current system is slow, capricious and unfair. We need better rules on state subsidies, state-owned enterprises and intellectual property.

The G20, as the designated “premier economic forum for international economic co-operation,” is the place to sell these proposed reforms. G20 nations represent 80 per cent of global output. But there is now a real danger that the trade wars will lead to trade blocs and to a breakdown in global trade that has lifted billions from poverty and into the middle-class jobs sought by Mr. Trudeau and his fellow leaders.

A third test for Mr. Trudeau will be whether he can persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to live up to his promises of closer North American co-operation, which were raised at the last G20 and reiterated by Vice-President Mike Pence during his recent Ottawa visit. Now that the U.S. threat of tariffs on Mexico has been suspended, the three countries need to move in tandem on legislative ratification of the new NAFTA.

Mr. Trudeau should corral Mr. Trump and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for an informal Three Amigos mini-summit to discuss the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as well as Venezuela; Mr. Trudeau should speak on the useful work of the Lima Group. That multilateral coalition could also provide assistance in Central America, as flight from countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador is the primary cause of the latest U.S.-Mexico border crisis, and it deserves the kind of constructive hemispheric attention that the Lima Group could provide.

Finally, there will need to be close scrutiny of the collective security of the Indo-Pacific democracies. We’ve recently strengthened ties with Korea and Japan, but we need to do more. In the Indo-Pacific, this means contributing more naval power.

And then there are the Prime Minister’s signature themes: climate change, inclusive growth, gender equality and empowering women. His tireless championing of these issues is moving the yardsticks forward. But it’s a meaner and messier world. There are now as many G20 leaders who are autocrats – real or instinctive – as there are liberal democrats. Mr. Trudeau will be judged not on his demonstrated capacity to sprinkle stardust, but on the realpolitik of hostages, tariffs, displaced persons and disintegrating rules-based norms.

Canada -China and Lu Shaye departure

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China-Canada differences go beyond Beijing’s critical, outgoing envoy: Carr

OTTAWA — Canada’s trade minister is downplaying the forthcoming departure of China’s outspoken envoy to Ottawa, saying differences between the countries stretch beyond anything at the ambassador’s level.

OTTAWA — Canada’s trade minister is downplaying the forthcoming departure of China’s outspoken envoy to Ottawa, saying differences between the countries stretch beyond anything at the ambassador’s level.

In an interview Wednesday, Jim Carr said the federal government is awaiting China’s decision on its replacement for outgoing ambassador Lu Shaye, who has had harsh words for Canada during a tenure that began in 2017.

“I don’t think that personalities are what would be at the centre of the issue here,” Carr said when asked about Lu’s past criticisms.

“The job of the ambassador is to express the view of his government. I would only assume that whatever is being spoken by the Chinese ambassador to Canada has the full support of the government, so this is an issue that goes beyond the ambassadorial level.”

Sources say Lu, who appeared to be more comfortable speaking French than English, will leave his Ottawa post in the coming weeks for a new position in Paris. Lu, 54, has also served as China’s ambassador to Senegal and as a counsellor for its foreign service in France, according to a biography on the embassy’s website.

His departure comes at a time, as Lu himself described in an interview Tuesday, of “serious difficulties” between the two countries.

Canada’s relationship with its second-biggest trading partner has deteriorated rapidly since the December arrest of a senior Huawei executive in Vancouver following an extradition request by the United States.

China was outraged by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou and has since detained two Canadians on allegations of espionage, sentenced two Canadians to death for drug-related convictions and blocked key agricultural shipments such as canola.

Lu has used strong words when talking about the relationship — for example, he has called Meng’s arrest the “backstabbing” of a friend and evidence of white supremacism.

He also warned of unspecified “repercussions” if the federal government bars Huawei from selling equipment to build a next-generation 5G wireless network in Canada.

Lu was critical of Canada before Meng’s arrest. Soon after arriving in Canada, Lu said he was struck by the negative view of China that he saw taking shape. In a 2017 interview, he blamed the Canadian media for disseminating a negative portrait of his country that depicted it as an abuser of human rights and of lacking democracy.

He said Canadian politicians sometimes had to “bow before media.”

In Lu’s interview Tuesday with The Canadian Press, he said China was not to blame for the ongoing dispute.

“But the Chinese government is waiting to make a joint effort with the Canadian side and meet each other halfway,” he said without specifying the necessary steps toward a resolution.

When asked about the possibility of freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — the Canadians detained in China on espionage charges — Lu said their fates are in the hands of Chinese authorities. On China’s rejection of Canadian canola imports over Chinese allegations of pests, he considers the matter closed.

Carr said the Liberal government still hopes to solve the bilateral differences by engaging China on many levels, not just through an ambassador.

“We will reach out to whomever is in that place and make the same arguments to him or her that we’re making now,” Carr said before leaving for Japan on a trade mission to find new markets for Canadian products, including canola.

Carr said Canada is still keen to send government inspectors to China to explore evidence of pests in the canola shipments. But, he added, China has not invited Canadian experts to do so, and there has been no high-level engagement on the matter despite Canada’s efforts.

This week, China increased inspections of Canadian pork products over its concerns about smuggling and African swine fever — an illness that can be devastating among pigs. It came in addition to previously stated Chinese complaints over the labelling of Canadian pork.

Asked Wednesday if the inspections were a sign the dispute had reached a new level, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau declined to speculate and said: “I don’t want to escalate the situation.”

Word of Lu’s departure comes at a time when Canada does not have an ambassador in Beijing. Last winter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired Canada’s ambassador, John McCallum, for going off-script in the government’s efforts to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor. Before his posting to Beijing, McCallum was a longtime Liberal MP and cabinet minister.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who is now vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said Lu’s departure presents an opportunity to reset the relationship.

“We need to find a way to engage,” he said. “Not having ambassadors who are reliable or trusted is a major handicap.”

Lu did a good job of publicly reflecting the Chinese government’s positions and “seemed to take relish in putting it to us,” Robertson added.

“His words aggravated the situation. Behind closed doors ambassadors are also expected to find solutions and try to nuance divisions. Here I see no evidence of serious effort by Lu Shaye.”

Andy Blatchford and Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Pres

Canada-USA Relations

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Upgrading Canada’s Foreign Policy Calls for Better Cooperation With US

Canada should exclude Huawei from 5G based on US advice, says former diplomat
June 5, 2019


Canada’s foreign policy faces stiff tests on several fronts, and the way forward begins with a better appreciation of the United States, according to former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, vice president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“We’re moving into a different kind of global situation,” Robertson said.

Canada has benefited from a rules-based global system, which has allowed it to participate as a middle power. It has always placed value in multilateral fora, but going forward, alliances with heavy U.S. involvement will be invaluable for Canada in achieving its foreign policy goals, says Robertson. These include North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), the Canada-United States-Mexico-Agreement (CUSMA), and the Five Eyes intelligence network.

For Canada, the immediate foreign relations problem stems from an angry China after the lawful arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last December in Vancouver in response to a U.S. extradition request.

Just after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on May 30, China’s foreign ministry warned Canada to “take immediate actions to correct its mistakes” and not to assist the United States.

In a move widely seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest, the Chinese regime has arrested two Canadians—Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig—for allegedly threatening its national security. It has also restricted Canadian exports of canola and pork and is warning of further consequences.

“Focus should be squarely on securing maximum US assistance on China,” tweeted David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China, on May 30,

Intelligence Alliance

The challenge currently facing the Five Eyes—composed of the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada—is achieving consensus on Huawei technology in their 5G networks.

The United States is steadfast in warning its allies not to use Huawei infrastructure for their 5G networks, fearing that the Chinese communist regime could spy on them, which would also put the United States at risk if it kept sharing intelligence. The Canadian government has so far said it is waiting for the conclusion of a national security review before making a decision.

Robertson disagrees with the Canada’s approach.

“Because the United States has taken a categorical position on this, it is more important for us to maintain that relationship with the United States, and so therefore I say [the government should] exclude Huawei,” Robertson said.

The lure of Huawei is that it is less expensive than offerings from other providers. But at what cost if national security is compromised and if the infrastructure then needs to be dismantled and rebuilt? In addition, for Canada, it is about maintaining access to Five Eyes intelligence.

Philip Lind, vice chairman of Canada’s biggest telecom company Rogers, agrees that Huawei is a threat to Canada and should be banned from supplying infrastructure for 5G networks.

“It’s not worth the money because we will lose so much more in terms of access to U.S. markets, U.S. intelligence, and the whole security world,” Robertson added. “I’d say, because of the national security argument, we should go along with the U.S. on this.”

Friends to the South

Canadians like to think they understand Americans and vice versa, but both are wrong, says Robertson, adding that there aren’t many experts on the United States in Canadian research institutes or universities who can provide advice.

About 75 percent of Canada’s trade is with the United States, but the reverse is less than 20 percent, so the relationship is asymmetric; however, the volume of trade is incredibly important to both nations.

Trade ties between Canada and the United States are improving after the elimination of steel and aluminum tariffs, but ratification of the CUSMA remains up in the air.

“It is in the national interest of the U.S. to have access to Canada and Mexico,” said Robertson, who believes that the required number of Democrats needed to pass the bill will eventually be reached. “The economics are very clear.”

The CUSMA would solidify the ties between Canada and the United States, which Canada seeks, along with international support, in the face of China’s aggression.

“We have our occasional differences, but at our core, both of our nations share a love for freedom,” Pence said during his visit to Ottawa. “The U.S. has stood strong with Canada on the unlawful detention of the two Canadians. The prime minister and I spoke about it extensively.”

Some pundits have opined on how Canada should stand up to China, and others have been criticized for suggesting that Canada should appease China. Regardless, it is in Canada’s best interest to be a reliable partner to the United States and its international allies, says Robertson.

Defence Spending Falls Short

With aggressive intentions from nations like Russia, North Korea, Iran, and China, national security and defence are becoming vital. The United States is letting Canada know it. Foreign policy experts say Canada has had a free ride for decades. Robertson says it is in Canada’s best interest to spend more on defence.

The United States has made it clear that it has done more than its fair share of carrying the load. It easily has the highest military spend of all countries in the world and is among the leaders in military spending as a percentage of GDP. Its 3.2 percent of GDP is more than double Canada’s 1.3 percent of GDP.

With military spending comes credibility. Regarding the Arctic, the United States would not question Canadian sovereignty if Canada backed its claims more seriously, says Robertson.

“Americans keep telling us this: If you claim sovereignty, then exert it,” he said, adding his voice to those who say Canada should establish naval bases up North.

More Action, Less Talk

The art of foreign policy is about knowing where, as a middle power, Canada can make an impact and where it should not sermonize. It has made notable contributions, like taking a leadership role in the Lima Group to push for legitimate rule and democracy in Venezuela in the face of the Maduro socialist regime, and working for reform of the World Trade Organization dispute settlement mechanism.

Canada has to “find niche areas where we, in concert with like-minded countries, can effect changes which serve the national interest but also serve the collective interest of the like-minded,” Robertson said.

“We’re very good at words. We’re not so good at putting money where our mouth is.”