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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 »

Congessional Class of 2019

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After a rancorous U.S. midterm election period, Congress and state legislatures are starting their new sessions.

Nearly one-fifth of the state legislators are newly elected, while Congress’s freshman class numbers more than 100. That means it’s time for Canada to re-engage with U.S. lawmakers – after all, we have a lot at stake and a lot of politicians to remind about our mutual dependence.

Our alliance with the United States is fundamentally about political and diplomatic relationships. And building relationships is vital to Canadian interests, especially with a new crop of legislators who haven’t yet been infected by the hardy perennials of “Buy America” thinking, which can be hard to weed out later.

Nothing is assured. That includes the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was signed at the end of November to much fanfare, but cannot actually be sealed until implementing legislation is passed in all three countries. The U.S. Trade Promotion Authority mandates an up-or-down vote in both chambers of Congress. The new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, too, might not support the proposed USMCA; most House Democrats voted against the original North American free-trade agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, even with Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. While Donald Trump has threatened to set a six-month countdown clock on the original NAFTA deal as soon as he introduces the implementing bill, thinking that this will leverage congressional passage, we can’t assume that his efforts will work.

Canada needs to continue the Team Canada advocacy effort that helped get them the USMCA deal in the first place by deploying federal ministers, premiers, members of Parliament and provincial legislators to meet their U.S. counterparts once again, and continuing to remind them of the importance of Canadian trade and investment to their districts and states in creating and sustaining jobs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s California district, for instance, exports more than US$637-million in goods and services to Canada. An estimated 1.2 million jobs in her home state – with more than 2,770 of those in her San Francisco district – depend on Canadian-owned companies. We need to keep reminding her of this and make the same detailed pitch to every member of Congress.

The new Congress is the most diverse in U.S. history, and women now account for 127 of the 535 members. Given the creation of the Trump-Trudeau inspired Canada-United States Council for Women Entrepreneurs & Business Leaders, it would also be wise for an all-party delegation of women to meet their counterparts, primarily to build relationships but also to help advance the Council’s plan for jointly expanding female-owned business and enabling their access to capital.

In the coming days, governors in 39 states – either new or re-elected – will be taking their oath of office, too. Canada’s premiers need to call on the new governors and re-engage with the re-elected, while our consuls general should attend the swearing-in ceremonies, which are rich in networking opportunities. I remember that, as a consul general myself, I met two future California state secretaries at then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s inauguration in 2003.

February’s annual national governors’ conference in Washington also offers a chance to advocate for smart U.S. infrastructure spending from Mr. Trump’s proposed trillion-dollar “Building a Stronger America” initiative. Better transportation – such as roads, railways, ports, grids and pipelines – helps all North Americans. However, there remains no procurement chapter in the new USMCA, even though the premiers successfully achieved this in 2010 by negotiating a reciprocity agreement on procurement. By opening cross-order competition, both Canada and the United States. will get better value from procurement dollars.

Our Washington embassy, located just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol building, is a natural place for premiers and governors to get together. When Frank McKenna was our ambassador, then-Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee – father of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders – jammed on his guitar, while Nova Scotia-born country singer George Canyon and Mr. McKenna joined in on tambourines, in front of a group of Canadian and Washington movers and shakers.

Canada has an advantage over all other countries, thanks to the deep network of connections that go beyond trade and weave themselves into ties of family and friendship. Annual Gallup polling consistently demonstrates that the United States ranks Canada as its favourite country: 94 per cent of Americans like us, according to the most recent survey.

We have both position and opportunity to advance our objectives with the U.S. legislative class of 2019. We need to act – never forgetting that we are most effective when we come together as Team Canada.

Why the G20 still matters

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Ten years on, the G20 still has relevance – and not just as inspiration for a clever skit in the latest Saturday Night Live. The G20 countries are the principal shareholders in the global economy. Together, these 19 nations and the European Union represent 85 percent of global output and two-thirds of the world’s peoples.

At its best, the G20 gets the major economies steering in the same direction – essential if responsible globalization is to succeed. The G20 works with the heads of the key financial, economic and trade institutions and draws advice from business, labour and civil society.

If the G7 leadership is mostly liberal democrats, the G20 includes autocrats, authoritarians and, apparently, authorizers of assassination. Their communiqués, like their plenary sessions, tend to the platitudinous, aspirational and run-on.

The leaders’ declaration – building consensus for fair and sustainable development – is a mouthful, but its 31-point communique is the most succinct in years. Importantly, the leaders commit to improving a “rules-based international order” capable of effectively responding to our “rapidly changing world.”

The communiqué addresses the conference’s three main themes – the future of work, infrastructure and food – all areas of Canadian interest. Gender mainstreaming – the assessment of the implications of public policy on gender – is a Canadian priority and criss-crosses the entire agenda. Reform of the World Trade Organization gets a boost. A Canadian initiative on improving WTO dispute-settlement provisions got another airing at Buenos Aries.

Leaders acknowledged climate change, but avoided making a choice between renewables and fossil fuels. Instead they endorse “different possible national paths” to achieve cleaner energy systems. The IMF and World Bank are directed to get a better grip on cross-border financial flows as well as public and private debt obligations between borrowers and creditors.

The communiqué reaffirmed past commitments to combat terrorism and money laundering. It noted the threat of anti-microbial resistance. Africa and the development agenda got a nod. It punted migration and the displaced to the next G20 summit, which will be hosted by Japan in 2019.

While endorsing transformative technology, leaders implicitly recognize that some jobs are never coming back. Governments need to be creative and deliberative in addressing adjustment. Policies need to be multifaceted. This means wage subsidies, earned-income tax credits and investments in communities.

To create an innovative economy, governments need to rethink education to encourage cognitive, digital and entrepreneurship skills. Are we doing enough in early childhood development? Do our schools develop STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – competencies? Do we have the right funding balance between the ivory tower and vocational training;, between applied sciences and the liberal arts? Do we invest enough in apprenticeships? Given the mismatch in skills seen in many countries, should business have more of a voice in higher education? How do we facilitate lifelong learning?

The opportunity for formal and informal face-to-face meetings between leaders is the real value of these summits. With the principal players in one place, things can get done.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland convinced her G7 counterparts to express their “utmost concern” over Russian aggression against Ukraine. Unable to get G8 consensus around the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Canada announced its own sanctions on 17 Saudi nationals. The two actions were at least some riposte to the egregious high-fiving between Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman.

Bookending this summit was the Friday-morning signing of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the Saturday dinner shared by presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, where the two leaders agreed to a trade truce and set a 90-day deadline for a new pact.

The USMCA is not perfect. It’s more managed trade than free trade. Justin Trudeau reminded President Trump that there is still unfinished business around the steel and aluminium tariffs. Canada will probably have to settle for a cap or the kind of creative solution – wage thresholds – that broke the impasse on the auto rules of origin.

While the USMCA is now signed, it still needs to be sealed through the implementation of legislation in each country. The Trudeau government should await U.S. ratification. We need to be sure that Mr. Trump’s legislation conforms to our agreement and that he can deliver its passage through the new Congress.

Like all international institutions, the G20 has its flaws. Originally a Canadian initiative that brought finance ministers and central bankers together, it was raised to leaders’ level at the onset of the Great Recession. A decade later, it still makes a useful contribution to global welfare.

G20 and Trudeau

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11/30/2018 07:16

Justin Trudeau Urged By Ukrainian Officials To Speak Out Against Russia

Russia recently seized three Ukrainian vessels near Crimea.

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers short remarks during the Women’s Economic Empowerment Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Nov. 29, 2018.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday as pressure mounts on Canada to forge a united diplomatic front against Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Trudeau and Poroshenko spoke following the prime minister’s arrival at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Thursday and the leaders discussed Russia’s actions that resulted in the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels near Crimea, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The call came after Russia announced Wednesday it would deploy another battery of anti-aircraft missiles to the Crimean Peninsula, bolstering its hold on the region it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Top Ukrainian officials are now urging Trudeau to be a voice against Russia.

The issue has also become even more complicated in the past 24 hours due to developments in the United States, prompting Donald Trump to cancel a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Trump announced Thursday on Twitter he would not be meeting Putin because “the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia.”

Andriy Shevchenko, the Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, said Trudeau should use his position as G7 president to deal with the current crisis.

Canada could also use this week’s G20 meeting in Argentina to advance that line of response, Shevchenko said.

“We would like to see a joint consolidated response from the free world,” he said.

Merkel to press Putin at G20

In a primer published on the G20 summit, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson and vice president with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute said Trudeau must see if he and Freeland can find consensus among G7 fellow leaders on Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine and on human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia.

“Neither is likely to happen,” he wrote.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday she plans to press Putin at G20 summit to urge the release of the Ukrainian ships and crews and to de-escalate the situation.

“We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” she said.

With files from Mike Blanchfield and The Associated Press

G20 Primer on Buenos Aries Summit

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A Canadian Primer to the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 30-December 1, 2018

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Image credit: G20

PRIMER

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice-President and Fellow
November 2018

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Table of Contents


Introduction

On Friday, November 30, the leaders of the 19 major economic nations and the EU will convene in the Costa Salguero convention centre along the Rio de la Plata in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. It is their 13th summit. This year’s host is Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri. The leaders are a diverse group – liberal democrats, authoritarians and autocrats. While the plenary sessions are the official focus, more attention will be on the interactions between U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, stained by the Khashoggi killing and the war in Yemen, is also attending.

North Americans will be watching the sideline meetings of President Trump with Mexico’s outgoing president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. According to Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump’s economic adviser, they or their representatives are supposed to sign the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), although there are reportedly details still to be worked out.

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Who and What is the G20?

The G20 leaders’ summit is the culmination of a year-long process of over 50 formal meetings that include the central bankers, finance ministers and sherpas. The summit, that celebrates its 10thanniversary this year, is effectively the meeting of the principal shareholders in the global economy meeting with their executive board – the heads of the organizations responsible for keeping the global economic, finance and trade operating systems in working order. It also includes civil society engagement through the Business 20, Civil 20, Labour 20, Science 20, Think 20, Women 20 and Youth 20.

The ‘shareholders’ include the G7 nations: Canada, the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union as well as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.  With 2/3 of the world’s population, their economies account for approximately 85 per cent of global economic output and  75 per cent of international trade.

Other participants include Spain, a permanently invited guest to G20 meetings. As host, Argentina has also invited Chile and the Netherlands to this summit. The heads of the United Nations, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Financial Stability Board, International Labour Organization and the Development Bank of Latin America will also participate.

Countries chairing key regional groups – such as the African Union (Rwanda), the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (Singapore) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Senegal) – are also invited and Argentina has included the Caribbean Community, represented by Jamaica, for this year’s G20.

The G20, originally a meeting of finance ministers, their deputies and central bankers, was formed in 1999 in the wake of the Asian and Russian financial crisis with Canada’s then-Finance Minister Paul Martin playing a lead role. It was raised to the leaders’ level in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis when then-U.S. president George W. Bush convened a summit in Washington in November 2008 to address the crisis. As Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Stewart Patrick observes: “The event reflected a new reality. Western governments could no longer hope to resolve international economic crises themselves. They needed a more encompassing body that included rising nations.

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The G20’s Standing Agenda

The de facto standing agenda for the G20 includes:

  • Multilateral trading system. The leaders will speak to its importance but there is no sense the WTO’s Doha round is going anywhere. The U.S. is also unhappy with the operation of the WTO itself, especially its dispute settlement. Canada, working with like-minded countries, has taken the lead in trying to find a solution to make the process more transparent and efficient.
  • Promoting international investment. Barriers to investment continue to plague G20 economies. The need of governments to further open their economies will be addressed.
  • Achieving sustainable fiscal policy. This means saving in good times so you can spend in recession and then get back to balance as quickly as possible.
  • Supporting sustainable development. With the conclusion of the Millennium Development plan in 2016, nations are now committed to 17 goals in the new UN Sustainable Development Agenda to be achieved by 2030, including zero poverty, gender equality, good health and wellbeing, clean water and sanitation, reduced inequalities, decent work and economic growth.
  • Resistance to protectionismGlobal Trade Alert reports that since 2008, notwithstanding the G20 pledge for standstill at the London 2010 summit, governments have taken 11,743 protectionistmeasures ranging from local content requirements to discriminatory regulatory practices. According to the WTO, G20 trade restrictive measures for 2018 are more than six times larger than those recorded in 2017 and the largest since this measure was first calculated in 2012. While new import-facilitating measures rose significantly during this period, they are less than half that of trade-restrictive measures. WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo has called for immediate action to de-escalate the situation.  Whether Trump and Xi curb the trade war is an open question. Which is cause for concern for investors across the globe. The U.S. and China remain far apart, as was seen with the failure of the APEC summit to agree on a final communiqué.

G20 Trade-Restrictive Measures
(average per month)

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What Does the Buenos Aires Summit Want to Achieve?

“BUILDING CONSENSUS FOR FAIR AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” is the theme of this year’s summit and President Macri has set three priorities:

The future of work: Unleashing people’s potential. Technological change is extraordinary in its magnitude and speed. G20 leaders want to avoid a scenario in which one nation seizes paramountcy in artificial or cyber-intelligence, leaving the rest far behind. The emergence of new technologies has led to the development of new forms of work that are rapidly changing production processes worldwide. Policy responses need to ensure that embracing technological change will not engender exclusion, social disintegration or backlash. Education is at the crux of this debate. Pointing to the GM Oshawa plant closing, the Mowat Center’s Sunil Johal observes that it “is a reminder that failing to take advantage of this opportunity to reform skills training, education and other vital social supports to be more responsive, client-centred and focused on outcomes will leave Canada out-of-step with the trajectory of the global economy – and risk leaving more workers disrupted out of their jobs, with nowhere to turn.”

Infrastructure for development: Mobilizing private resources to reduce the infrastructure deficit. The global infrastructure gap projected from now to the year 2035 amounts to US$5.5 trillion according to some estimates. The World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index for infrastructure puts Canada in 25th position internationally. We can do better. Meanwhile, institutional investors, that include Canadian pension funds and big league players like Canada’s Brookfield, have US$80 trillion in assets under management, typically offering low returns. Mobilizing private investment toward infrastructure is crucial to closing the global infrastructure gap. It can also ensure a better return for those who today save and invest. This is a win-win objective and it requires international co-operation. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a major source of infrastructure funding but BRI financing on partner nations’ debt levels, governance and susceptibility to Chinese influence are increasingly under scrutiny and will doubtless be discussed at Buenos Aires.

A sustainable food future: Improving soils and increasing productivity. The G20 countries are key players in the global food system. Their territories account for about 60 per cent of all agricultural land and for almost 80 per cent of world trade in food and agricultural commodities. Approximately 10 millionhectares of cropland are lost every year due to soil erosion. Food production must double during the next 30 years to meet projected population growth and dietary changes. Feeding the world without erasing our forests and using up our water is the big challenge requiring international co-operation. In a recent report Canada’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth has argued that Canadian leadership in global food production could help drive an economic growth agenda for the country for generations. With a reputation for safety, quality and trustworthiness, Canada’s food brand is “enhanced by the country’s natural advantage, its stock of natural resources – fresh water and arable land – and an ecological footprint in producing food that is among the best in the world.”

Argentina has also pledged to build on past presidencies across a broad array of issues and they are all likely to be reflected in any communiqué, no matter how wishy-washy the language:

  • Empowering women
  • Fighting corruption
  • Strengthening financial governance
  • Continuing work towards a strong and sustainable financial system
  • Improving the fairness of the global tax system
  • Co-operating on trade and investment
  • Taking responsibility on climate action
  • Transitioning towards cleaner, more flexible and transparent energy systems

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What About Deliverables from Buenos Aires?

Not a lot. Achieving a consensus communiqué, given the rancorous relationships particularly between China and the U.S., may be all we can expect. Most of the action will be at the bilateral level. The working dinner on Saturday night between Trump and Xi will be closely watched. The trade war with China has seen the U.S. hit about half of all Chinese imports with tariffs. China has responded in kind but the U.S. buys much more from China than China buys from the U.S.

As is always the case at these summits, security will be paramount with a 20,000-officer-strong security operation commanded by Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, who recently indicated people should carry guns if they so pleased. Anti-globalization protests will inevitably take place.

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Canadian Objectives

This is Justin Trudeau’s fourth G20 summit. According to the PMO release on the G20 meeting, Prime Minister Trudeau will build on the issues advanced at this year’s Charlevoix G8 summit: “To create good, middle-class jobs, invest in economic growth that benefits everyone, advance gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, fight climate change, protect our oceans, and promote clean energy.” Mr. Trudeau will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

As G8 lead until the end of the year, Mr. Trudeau must see if he and Ms. Freeland can find consensus among his G7 fellow leaders, as they did on Venezuela, on Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine and on human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia. Neither is likely to happen, although Canada has now imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi nationals that “in the opinion of the Government of Canada, [are] responsible for or complicit in the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi… The explanations offered to date by Saudi Arabia lack consistency and credibility.”

Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland will also canvas their counterparts on the Canadian efforts to reform the WTO, especially its dispute settlement process.

Mr. Trudeau will want to speak with transpacific leaders (Mexico, Australia, Japan) about the December 30 implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The summit will be an opportunity for Trudeau to push European leaders, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, to move on their own ratification of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and to push other European leaders to get it done. While the agreement took effect in September 2017, it requires the approval of all 28 EU member states. Italy has threatened not to ratify CETA and various member states such as Austria want the EU Court of Justice to rule on the investment court system.

Canada hosted the G20 in Toronto in 2010.

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Do We Really Need a G20?

Yes. At a time when globalization, the maintenance of a liberal international order and multilateral co-operation are under question, the G20 is an important forum to discuss, and hopefully advance, common global interests. More people will work on the draft of the final communiqué than may read it but the process of getting there is what really matters. The ongoing meetings between central bankers and finance ministers (the original G20) now include other ministerial meetings as well as regular discussions with business, civil society and think tanks.

The G20 filled a gap in the architecture of top table meeting places at the UN and G7. The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the U.S. – represent the world of 1945 and the early Cold War. As we witness with Syria and other crises, getting the Security Council to act constructively is very difficult. Reforming it is an exercise in futility. The G7 group of leaders – the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada – was created in 1975-1976 following the economic crisis that OPEC induced. It is Eurocentric. It doesn’t include China, India or Brazil. Russia joined in 1998 but it was suspended in 2014 after its invasion of Crimea.  The G20 complements at the leadership level the work of the other major financial and economic institutions: the “Bretton Woods twins” – the IMF and World Bank – and the WTO. As Patrick observes: “The G20 has the potential to act more nimbly and (at least in principle) transcend stultifying bloc politics that afflict the United Nations and other universal membership organizations.” Some suggest that the G20 should create a parallel foreign ministers’ track, arguing that the political and the economic go hand-in-hand, but this is probably a bridge too far for now.

So, the G20 makes sense. Like the G7, much of the G20’s value is in its process. What is important about these summits is not the prepared statements delivered at the main table, but the frank discussions and informal meetings that take place in the corridors and meeting rooms around the main conference. Winston Churchill, who popularized the word “summitry”, observed that “jaw-jaw” between leaders is better than “war-war”.

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The Economic Picture

The IMF’s World Economic Outlook (April 2018) reports that the global economic upswing that began around mid-2016 has become broader and stronger. This growth exceeds that achieved in any of the years between 2012 and 2016. World growth strengthened in 2017 to 3.8 per cent, stimulated in part by the Trump administration’s tax cuts.  But there are risks.  Growth has proven to be less balanced than hoped and inequality, which has helped spur populist movements around the globe, is a challenge. For the EU, there is the ongoing Brexit saga.

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Tighter global financial conditions include higher borrowing costs, less available credit after a borrowing binge and declining stock markets.

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In several key economies, growth is being supported by policies that seem unsustainable over the long term. The new Global Financial Stability Report says financial conditions have also tightened markedly in emerging and developing economies over the past six months. Global trade is rebounding although protectionist actions, especially by the Trump administration, are disrupting long-established supply chains.

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There are also the geopolitical risks.

Conflict continues in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Africa. Famine ravages the Horn of Africa. Russia still occupies parts of Ukraine and tensions have flared anew. China continues to muscle into the South China Sea. After abandoning the nuclear deal with Iran, the Trump administration has re-imposed sanctions. There is little discernible progress in the U.S.’s negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear and missile capacity. While the flow has diminished, refugees from Africa and the Middle East continue to stream into Europe and as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports there are over 68.5 million displaced persons. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights.

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Further Reading

The official Argentine site has useful information, as does Global Affairs Canada. The best Canadian source for G20 documentation, with a chronology of past summits, is the University of Toronto’s G20 Information Centre managed by John Kirton. The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo does excellent research work on G20 issues. Both are also involved in the G20 Insights project that has produced a series of excellent policy briefs drawing on work by the Think 20.

G20 Economies 1992 and 2017

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G20 Trudeau and G8

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11/30/2018 07:16 EST

Justin Trudeau Urged By Ukrainian Officials To Speak Out Against Russia

Russia recently seized three Ukrainian vessels near Crimea.

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers short remarks during the Women’s Economic Empowerment Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Nov. 29, 2018.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday as pressure mounts on Canada to forge a united diplomatic front against Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Trudeau and Poroshenko spoke following the prime minister’s arrival at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Thursday and the leaders discussed Russia’s actions that resulted in the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels near Crimea, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The call came after Russia announced Wednesday it would deploy another battery of anti-aircraft missiles to the Crimean Peninsula, bolstering its hold on the region it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Top Ukrainian officials are now urging Trudeau to be a voice against Russia.

The issue has also become even more complicated in the past 24 hours due to developments in the United States, prompting Donald Trump to cancel a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Trump announced Thursday on Twitter he would not be meeting Putin because “the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia.”

Andriy Shevchenko, the Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, said Trudeau should use his position as G7 president to deal with the current crisis.

Canada could also use this week’s G20 meeting in Argentina to advance that line of response, Shevchenko said.

“We would like to see a joint consolidated response from the free world,” he said.

Merkel to press Putin at G20

In a primer published on the G20 summit, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson and vice president with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute said Trudeau must see if he and Freeland can find consensus among G7 fellow leaders on Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine and on human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia.

“Neither is likely to happen,” he wrote.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday she plans to press Putin at G20 summit to urge the release of the Ukrainian ships and crews and to de-escalate the situation.

“We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” she said.

With files from Mike Blanchfield and The Associated Press

G20 Buenos Aries and USMCA

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USMCA signing could be overshadowed by larger divisions between nations at G20

The summit is expected to be dominated by U.S.-China spat and Saudi crown prince’s pariah status

A jetliner flies over the G20 summit venue at the Costa Salguero Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. (Gustavo Garello/Associated Press)

Officials don’t know yet who will sign the pact. And they haven’t said exactly when, or where, it’s going to happen.

But when the G20 summit in Buenos Aires is over, the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico are supposed to be coming home with a newly signed trade agreement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday his government was “still in discussions” with Washington about the timing and circumstances of the official United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement signing event. At any rate, it may turn out to be a hold-your-nose moment for the Trudeau government, which had hoped to see U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum lifted before signing day.

The chances that the tariffs will even be discussed at the summit, let alone lifted, are so slim that a source tells CBC News that Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. isn’t even going to Argentina.

Canada’s Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton will not attend the G20 summit in Argentina, a source tells CBC News.(Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

David MacNaughton has been a key leader for the Canadian trade negotiating team, but he will not be present for the anticipated signing ceremony, or for any sideline talks with the Americans in Buenos Aires.

While the USMCA signing will be big news in Canada when it happens, it’s likely to be overshadowed by the larger global divisions on display at the G20.

The official agenda will see leaders discussing different approaches to sustainable and fair growth for the global economy. But these conversations come at a time when confidence in multilateral institutions is declining.

“How do we preserve that system that has sustained peace and prosperity for 70 years?” said Colin Robertson, a VP at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, when asked which question he’d like to see leaders tackle in Argentina. “Because it really has come into question in the last couple of years.”

The Americans have been at the centre of two summits that ended in diplomatic disaster in this year alone.

Most recently, the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea ended without a communique, as trade frustrations between the U.S. and China flared.

In June, the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec ended with President Trump pulling his support for the communique and lashing out at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling him “weak.”

“The rules-based order depends on the ability of the leaders from very diverse backgrounds to get together and try and come up with solutions that will take the world forward,” Robertson said.

“Mr. Trump is a disruptive force.”

U.S.-China trade tensions

Trade frustrations and market disruptions will be at the centre of a summit sideline meeting between Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping.

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Nov. 9, 2017. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

It’s likely to be the last face-to-face discussion between the leaders before January 1 — when the U.S. is set to increase tariffs on more than $250 billion worth of Chinese goods unless China makes significant changes to its trading practices.

The ripple effect of an escalating trade war between China and the U.S. certainly would have consequences for Canada, but there isn’t much Canada can do apart from stand by and watch the conflict unfold.

“We don’t have that much influence, certainly not a great relationship between Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Trump. With the Chinese … we don’t have that kind of access or influence to act as mediators,” Patrick Leblond, an associate professor in international affairs at the University of Ottawa, told Radio-Canada.

“We need to work with our other partners, certainly the EU, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, to see how we can make sure that the tensions and the conflict do not escalate.”

Avoiding MBS

The other significant sideline distraction will be the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The prince —​ widely known as ‘MBS’ — has arrived in Argentina already, two days ahead of the summit’s official start.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at Ministro Pistarini in Buenos Aires on Wednesday. (G20 via Reuters)

World leaders, including Trudeau, may go out of their way to avoid the prince, given the lingering questions about his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“I think that the handlers on both sides will make every effort to make sure they don’t cross paths. You certainly aren’t going to see Mr. Trudeau giving him a handshake,” said Robertson.

Canada is one of several G20 countries still assessing its response to the murder of the Washington Post columnist.

While Prince Mohammed has denied any involvement, western leaders, including those in Canada, have questioned the credibility of the Saudis’ defence.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who will be in Buenos Aires, has said Canada is considering sanctions against those involved in Khashoggi’s murder. Last week, Freeland also said the government is reviewing arms sales to Saudi Arabia and won’t issue new arms export permits during that period of review.

The Trump administration has sanctioned more than a dozen individuals believed to be linked to the killing. But President Trump has decided against further action, arguing it would harm the U.S.-Saudi business relationship.

Is Canada Back?

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Canada is somewhat back: The marginalization of federal foreign policy

By Steve Zhang

Three years ago, during his successful election campaign, Justin Trudeau and his Liberals promised Canada would revisit its commitments to multilateralism and the international order established after the Second World War.

Despite the ambitious rhetoric, Canada is hardly ‘back,’ experts say.

While the Liberals have had some moderate successes re-engaging with old allies and on some key issues – principally the re-negotiated North American trade agreement – Canada’s foreign policy has largely fallen short of its goals.

However, the Liberals cannot be blamed, at least not wholly, for the lack of concrete results in Canadian foreign policy. Nearly a decade of Conservative rule, and Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 election victory have combined to push foreign affairs to the periphery of the national agenda.

As Daryl Copeland writes in “Canada’s back” – can the Trudeau government resuscitate Canadian diplomacy? in the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, Canada was at one time an ‘honest fixer, peaceful broker and pioneering peacekeeper.’

That changed when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives formed government in 2006.

“They basically repudiated pretty much all of the foundations of post-Second World War Canadian foreign policy, (with) the distancing from multilateralism, the infusion of ideology rather than pragmatism,” says Copeland, a former diplomat and fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI).

According to Copeland, one of the biggest things that plagued foreign policy during the Harper administration was a succession of seven foreign ministers who were largely indifferent, and sometimes antagonistic, to the international order.

“Canada went from being known as an engaged, active and helpful kind of presence on the international stage to one which was largely spectral,” Copeland said. “Instead of a country that one would want to have at the table during important international negotiations, we became somewhat of a pariah.”

On certain issues, the Liberals have maintained Conservative policies. Hélène Laverdière, the out-going NDP foreign affairs critic, points out that the Conservatives dropped several African countries from its foreign aid program and the Liberals have yet to restore that aid.

Overall Canadian foreign development aid has fallen to historic lows at 0.26 per cent of gross national income (GNI), and is lower than both the national target of 0.7 per cent, and 0.31 per cent under Harper. Laverdière also asks how a party that claims to champion human rights can continue to support the $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, signed in 2014 by the previous administration, given the kingdom’s poor record on human rights.

“There’s a lot of talk that’s different from the Conservatives, but in their actions, we don’t find it,” she said. “They need to show more leadership on a range of issues that are traditional for Canada, including peacekeeping.”

In the past, Canada was a leading peacekeeping nation. As much as 10 per cent of the peacekeepers – roughly 80,000 personnel – sent on UN missions between 1948 and 1988 were Canadian, and Canada, under Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, is credited with helping create the template for modern peacekeeping.

“It was a key way that Canada was supporting the United Nations. That lesser support for peacekeeping did not start with Harper,” says Peggy Mason, a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament to the UN, and president of the policy think-tank, the Rideau Institute, “but under Harper, Canada was absolutely hostile to UN peacekeeping.”

Mason says the decline in peacekeeping started when Canada became more involved in NATO-led operations, such as in Yugoslavia, under Jean Chrétien.

Trudeau pledged to resume Canada’s peacekeeping role and bolster its contributions to peacekeeping missions. The original promise was to provide 650 troops, but the actual contribution has been far lower: 250 troops and six helicopters were sent to a UN mission in Mali. It was a contribution that took two years to materialize, and contrasts heavily with contributions of between 1,000 to 4,000 troops deployed from 1990 to 1995, according to figures from Providing for Peacekeepers.

On another major foreign policy issue, climate change, the Trudeau goverment has removed Harper’s restrictions on government scientists allowing them to speak openly about their research. The Liberal government has also signed the Paris Accord on combatting climate change. Harper muzzled scientists with a special media centre to control what information became public, and it was also under his administration that greenhouse gas emissions reached an all-time high in 2007.

Another area where there’s been success is the Canada-US trade portfolio, dominated by the trade renegotiations. At the centre is Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland who is Canada’s lead negotiator with the United States, a daunting prospect given the unanticipated election of Donald Trump as president, who made cutting a new trade deal a priority.

“It’s been very difficult for the government because the attitudes of the Trump administration towards global trade has meant that Canada has really been fighting a defensive battle,” says University of British Columbia political science professor Allen Sens. “Canada has been put in a position of being very reactive, so it hasn’t had the capacity to be proactive in those few areas where it could have been, like the United Nations.”

According to the 2018 Trudeau Report Card by Carleton University, Freeland has aligned herself closely with American interests. As the United States continues to look inward, Canada is destined to be dragged along. The two countries’ fortunes are tied so closely together that trade negotiations has taken attention away from other parts of Freeland’s job. Others have argued that this focus on trade actually represents the government’s commitment to foreign policy.

“This whole negotiation has raised her profile so considerably,” says Norman Hillmer, Chancellor’s Professor of history and international affairs at Carleton University. “There are two kinds of leaders: there are the micromanagers like Harper who wanted to do it all themselves, and then there are those who will delegate and it’s clear that Trudeau has enormous confidence in Chrystia Freeland.”

Hillmer says the trade renegotiations have demonstrated Canada’s ‘internationalist credentials in a very credible way.’ Freeland, he says, is a capable minister who shows Global Affairs Canada has a life of its own, without having to toe the party line, as it did under Harper.

Since 75 per cent of Canada’s exports go to the United States and 40 per cent of its GDP relies on those exports, as former diplomat and vice president of the CGAI Colin Robertson says, it makes sense that all of Freeland’s energy was devoted to one file.

“She knew she had to deliver, so she put her energy not necessarily where she would’ve liked to put it,” says Robertson, “but she knew that was the priority, and that’s ultimately what we expect governments to do: deal with what’s vital.”

For her efforts, Freeland has been named Foreign Policy’s Diplomat of the Year for 2018, and is being lauded for how she handled the trade file. Although Canada, along with Mexico, had to make some concessions in the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, it was able to retain access to US markets, and the U.S. dropped some initial demands, such as asking for 50 per cent of all car imports to be American-made. However, trade is one part of a larger foreign policy file, and all parts must be engaged for foreign affairs to succeed.

“I think we need to put more into pure diplomacy because that matters more than ever, especially with the U.S. taking a vacation under Donald Trump from minding the world order,” says Robertson. “We were the engineers [of the world order] and we’re going to have to step up.”

Canada in Latin America

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Canada’s Latin American trade complications

Despite PM’s push, more deals with region unlikely in the near future

Canada and its Trade Deals

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