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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 »

Scheer and Trudeau and Foreign Policy Speeches

Tweets and soundbites are the fast food of communicating policy. Like news releases, they are frequent but mostly shallow, narrow-cast, and platitudinous. There is not a lot of “there” there, so a well-prepared speech, especially on foreign policy, deserves digesting.

Speaking recently in Montreal, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer gave what diplomats call a “meat and potatoes” speech – effectively a full-course meal.

Mr. Scheer’s uncosted promises included new jets, new submarines, ballistic missile defence and a robust cyber-command. There will be work for all of our shipyards and more attention to the Arctic. He pledges that all-party involvement will take the politics out of procurement. He gave a Churchillian defence of democracies. He would establish closer relations with India and Japan, do a reset with China, stand up to Russian aggression and terrorists, and move our Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Four years ago, Justin Trudeau gave his own pre-election foreign policy speech – a nouvelle cuisine version that focused on North America. He committed to more attention to Mexico and subsequently lifted the visa requirement for Mexican visitors.

But they shared one major, unsurprising thread: the need to repair the U.S. relationship.

How to manage Uncle Sam has been a constant challenge, one that’s existed even before Confederation. Mr. Trudeau criticized Stephen Harper’s “hectoring belligerence” and for making the Keystone pipeline the litmus test of the relationship. Mr. Scheer says he could have gotten a better deal on renegotiating the North American free-trade agreement. He may still get his chance if he were to become prime minister, although the lifting of the retaliatory steel and aluminium tariffs makes it more likely that all three countries will now pass the new agreement’s implementing legislation.

Mr. Trudeau embraces multilateralism. His signature themes are climate, gender equality and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. His UN General Assembly speeches were essentially one-plate affairs addressing migration, then reconciliation, with climate as a side dish for both.

But the defining speech of Mr. Trudeau’s foreign-policy vision so far came from Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, when she spoke to the House of Commons in June, 2017. Erudite in its defence of liberal internationalism, the rules-based system and robust collective security, Ms. Freeland pulled no punches. Describing the United States as the indispensable nation, she recognized that it was tired of carrying the burden. Canada and its allies had to step up to deter aggressors like Russia. The speech sparkled, but Canada has yet to deliver on defence and development promises.

With an election five months away, these “turbulent times”, as Mr. Scheer described them, should mean more focus on Canada’s global affairs.

As the pair head into an election, they need to be wary of three temptations.

First, doing foreign policy on the cheap. It’s a meaner and messier world. It is going to cost us more for defence, diplomacy and development.

Championing the cause of the Rohingya, participating in the Lima Group’s efforts on Venezuela, and working to improve the WTO’s dispute settlement are examples of constructive diplomatic entrepreneurship. Using Canada’s globally sought expertise in democratic governance is a no-brainer. Why do we give much more funding to foreign entities than to Canadian NGOs such as the Parliamentary Centre, a non-profit which offers support to parliaments around the world. Why wouldn’t we benefit from the Canada brand?

These initiatives require a dedicated prime minister, an energetic foreign minister, and, perhaps especially, a foreign service at the top of its game. There are no guarantees of success. Not everything endures, including the progressive trade agenda and the UN-mandated Responsibility to Protect. We need to focus, recognize limitations and decide what best serves Canadian interests. That will mean hard choices and hard questions: Why are we involved in peace operations in Mali? Why not more in Haiti or in Central America?

Second, playing diaspora politics hurts national security and bilateral relations, as Mr. Trudeau learned during his magical mystery tour of India.

Third, avoid smugness and the tendency to preach. Virtue and apologetic sanctimony are qualities adored by the converted, but they won’t win Canada a UN Security Council seat. Humility, being constructive and paying our way represent better examples of statecraft.

Tangles with Saudi Arabia and China demonstrate that we have fewer friends willing to visibly stand with us than we thought. The United States is a less reliable partner to us today.

Canada is a blessed nation, in its resources and in its people. We need government, including vigorous policy debates. As we approach the fall election, there will be more speeches bristling with ideas, initiatives and their costs – and Canadians would be well-served by listening closely to what these words really signal.

Positioning Canada in a Messy World

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Positioning Canada in a Messy World

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Image credit: U.S. Department of State

POLICY PERSPECTIVE

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice President
May 2019

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Table of Contents


Introduction

Canadians live in a messy world. A three-ring circus of disruptive powers, drifting multilateralism and transnational threats requires diplomatic care and the attention of leaders. The statecraft will have to be tailored to individual circumstances. For the disruptors – China, Russia, Iran, North Korea et al – it is engagement, containment and deterrence. Multilateralism needs reinvigoration and reform of its institutions especially those responsible for trade and security. The transnational threats – climate, nuclear proliferation, migration, pandemics, terrorism – are probably a chronic condition but they can be curbed, controlled and mitigated.

Positioning Canada in this changing environment will take skill, strategy and investments in security and diplomacy. Both the nature of power and relative power among nations is changing. Global power is no longer homogeneous. Borders are back. So is nationalism. In the absence of the guard rails that the United States provided during our lifetime, a world in disarray risks descending into chaos and conflict. Constructive powers – big, middle and small – need to stand up regardless of when, whether or how the U.S. re-engages.

Changing circumstances mean that the free ride Canadians enjoyed with the end of the Cold War now requires investment in dollars, people and kind starting with our armed forces and diplomatic service. Smart power blends hard and soft elements. Smart power, for Canada, also means active multilateralism and constantly looking for niches where we can play a constructive role. Canadians expect it. Our self-identity draws from how we are perceived abroad. As a nation, we will always depend on talented settlers.

When it comes to relationships providing trade and security, for Canada it is still the U.S. and then the rest. We can’t change our geography, nor would we want to. Notwithstanding its increasingly polarized politics, the U.S. remains the innovation nation and robust economically and militarily. We need to invest more in understanding the U.S. We also need to recognize that its changing domestic circumstances – currents of nativism, protectionism and isolationism – make it, for now, a less reliable partner.

Pollsters find the global public, including Canadians, have grave doubts about the future. It is small wonder that many feel adrift in uncharted waters. As we grasp for hope, there is a hankering for simpler times and strong leaders who say they can fix things. Whether traditional or new age, faiths that give comfort and meaning have increased appeal even when rooted in intolerance.  Where once the main political divides were between the right and the left, the new divide is more about systems that are open versus those that are closed.

Ours is a world filled with both “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”. Our digital age, on the cusp of broadly applied artificial intelligence enabled by Big Data and quantum computing, brings new meaning to complexity. These are areas where Canadian know-how and technological skill must be applied, not only for our own interests but also because know-how in the new domains of space and cyber-space gives us a place at the tables where decisions are made.

While the losses are still shallow compared with the gains in the 20th century, Freedom House has recorded a decline in global freedom for 13 consecutive years. The decline is recorded in longstanding democracies like the U.S. and through the consolidation of authoritarianism in China, Russia, Turkey, Hungary and elsewhere.

This decline is accompanied by an increasing loss of popular confidence in the ability of liberal democracies to solve problems. Citizens feel that the next generation will be worse off than they are. They blame growing inequality, seemingly uncontrolled migration, terrorism and climate change. These are the factors that fuel populism, nativism and protectionism and the appeal of strong men with simple solutions.

The world as we knew it is changing. History suggests we have the capacity to find a way out of our problems but the challenges, especially around climate, are daunting and time is not our friend. Global complexity is increasingly overwhelming. There may be no winners but there could be lots of losers. In this new era we need realism, a sense of history and humility.

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America First

For Canada, it is America first – first for our trade, first for our security, first for stewardship of our shared environment and first for people-to-people connections in everything from business to popular culture. We are different but close enough that Americans always rate Canadians as their favourite nation. That they like us more than we like them is something we under-utilize.

Life with Uncle Sam is never easy, especially with President Donald Trump, but we have preferred access to the U.S. market – still the biggest in the world – and thanks to our NORAD alliance, the U.S. military provides our default security umbrella.

If Trump has taught us anything, it is that Canada needs to mount a permanent campaign to remind Americans of our mutually beneficial commerce.  American jobs and prosperity depend in part on trade with Canada. We think we know everything there is to know about Americans. We are wrong. We need a better understanding of our neighbour. Understanding starts with the U.S. Constitution – its checks and balances and separation of powers. It is shocking that we have no significant research institutions devoted to the study of the U.S. We need to pay more attention to Congress and the states. We should have someone – consul, honorary consul or representative – in every state. Better understanding also means links to the various interests and institutions that fund the U.S. system and provide it with ideas.

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Great Arsenal of Democracy

U.S. presidents since Franklin Roosevelt persuaded Congress and Americans to step away from tariffs, to embrace large standing military organizations, to surrender some elements of sovereignty, to give up their aversion to permanent international arrangements and to carry the burden when others fell short. The U.S. became the “great arsenal of  democracy” dedicated, as Roosevelt proclaimed, to the four freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. The U.S. shouldered the burdens that brought peace and prosperity. Its security blanket, especially protection of the sea-lanes, made possible a globalization that lifted billions from poverty and created a global middle class.

The U.S.’s military alliances – notably NATO – bolstered this outward-bound approach. This new strategy formed the foundation for the post-Second World War operating system that was liberal in its economic orientation and rules-based.  It provided stability, relative peace and rising prosperity. Its economic performance stood in contrast to the statist command-and-control communism of Maoist China and the post-Stalinist Soviet Union with its satellites in the Warsaw Pact. Its advantages – open markets and freedom of choice – increasingly drew in the non-aligned. After 1989, most of the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe scrambled to join the European Union and NATO. The exuberant application of the Washington consensus saw its deregulatory flaws revealed in 2008-2009 and subsequent recession but capitalism, in its variant forms, enjoys global embrace. As Deng Xiaoping famously said, it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.

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And Then Came Trump

American ascendancy after the end of the Cold War was supposed to usher in the triumph of democracy, or as political scientist Francis Fukuyama  put it “not just … the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” But it did not work out that way. 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the great recession shook American self-confidence, and in 2016, Trump became president. His words and actions are radically different from those of his postwar predecessors. Despite record low unemployment and a buoyant economy, Trump appeals to populism, protectionism and nativism. Daily, through tweets, speeches and statements he vindicates those in the Republican foreign policy establishment who warned of his recklessness and declared him unfit for office. His actions on his signature themes have worsened the immigration crisis, disrupted trade and poisoned alliances.

Speaking for the first time to the United Nations, Trump told the General Assembly that the sovereignty, security and prosperity of the American people are his sole objectives, and that these – not world order, not human rights – should also be other nations’ priorities. Trumpism was perhaps best expressed by then-national security advisor H.R. McMaster and national economic director Gary Cohn (both of whom have since left the administration) when they wrote that for Trump “the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage” and that the U.S. would practise “reciprocity in trade and commerce. Simply put, America will treat others as they treat us … America First signals the restoration of American leadership and our government’s traditional role overseas – to use the diplomatic, economic and military resources of the U.S. to enhance American security, promote American prosperity, and extend American influence around the world.”

Americans tell pollsters that they are tired of foreign adventures with their cost in blood and treasure. Reform of the health system – the most expensive in the OECD – continues amid controversy. Other well-documented problems include obesity and the opiate crisis, gun violence and continuing racial tensions.

Will a post-Trump U.S. return to its role as champion of liberal democracy and internationalism? It is unlikely.

Canada and the allies should strive to be reliable partners to the U.S. As former Defense secretary James Mattis wrote in his resignation letter: “the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies…the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.”

But even when a president is prepared to lead, unless it is an attack on the homeland, there will be countervailing pressures in Congress and among the American people. Reliance on the U.S., as John F. Kennedy proclaimed, to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty”? Those days are done.

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The Disruptors

Even if no one else can match the U.S. for power and reach, a resurgent China and revanchist Russia are disrupting the global operating system and challenging its norms and mores. The Russians and the Chinese are different in background, history and culture. They think differently. Both resent the West. Situated in the middle of a great plain, the Russians are conscious of threats from the West. To be safe, they extend their frontiers as far west as they can. For the Chinese, the “century of humiliation” at the hands of the West and Japan is current history and thus they are pushing their boundaries to the traditional Middle Kingdom, including the South China Sea and Taiwan.

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Source: Angus Reid 2018 http://angusreid.org/g7-summit-2018-world-leaders/

China will be the strongest competitor and the U.S.-China relationship in the 21st century will be the most consequential global relationship.

There will be intense competition, brinksmanship and tension especially in the Indo-Pacific, likely centred around the South China Sea. Unless there is miscalculation, violent conflict – the Thucydides trap – probably can be avoided. For now, China’s aspirations are essentially regional.

The cultivation of aggressive nationalism and identification of foreign threats are part of Chinese and Russian statecraft. Their behaviour encourages others who emulate it – Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and other authoritarian leaders who see the opportunity for regional gain and to solidify their power.

Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin claim that the current system is tilted against them and does not serve their interests. They want a system based on a concert of great powers, each with hegemony in its own neighbourhood – complete with vassal or tributary states.

For Xi, it is all about the stability of the People’s Republic of China, based on an order that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has directed and led since 1949. For Xi and the CCP, the state is indivisible from the party and the party’s job is to ensure the state’s stability.

For Putin, the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin would like to re-establish a greater Mother Russia, positioning himself as champion of the revived conservative and nationalist Russian Orthodox Church. He prefers stealth and subversion, but he will also employ force, as demonstrated in Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Russia is upgrading its armed forces and weaponry – nuclear, conventional and unconventional (“little green men”). Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Russia has developed hybrid capacities which it employs to disrupt democracies, especially their elections.

Both Russia and China have problems. Russia suffers from a sclerotic petro-based economy. It has an aging population with a high rate of alcoholism. China’s population is also aging. Despite abandonment of the one-child policy, the ethnic Han Chinese population is in decline.  China is dependent on imports of food and energy, and its Belt and Road initiative is designed to create a secure land and sea supply chain.

Chinese and Russian leaders rely on a pervasive internal security apparatus. They are betting that the bulk of their citizens prefer stability and rising economic standards to nebulous democratic rights. They may be right. Increasingly, they think their security-state model is ready for export into the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Canadian relations with both China and Russia are currently in the deep freeze. Just because these countries are big does not give them a pass on bad behaviour. Whatever our economic interests, they must also reflect core values, notably human rights. Canada sanctioned Russia for its occupation of Crimea and continuing incursions into Ukraine. Targeting the responsible individuals rather than nations, as we do through the Magnitsky Act sanctions for human rights abuse, is smart diplomacy. We are applying sanctions against the Russians and Venezuelans. Sanctions should also be applied against those Chinese officials responsible for keeping Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor hostage in inhumane circumstances.

We should, nonetheless, look for areas to engage – with Russia, for example, on Arctic safety and environmental protection. With China, we need to keep the lines open through the annual heads-of-government and ministerial meetings and through co-operation on issues like climate change and containing pandemics.

Astute diplomacy should be able to contain or constrain China’s rising power. But it will depend on robust alliances – an expanded NATO, for example – and a continuing strong U.S. naval presence in the Indo-Pacific. Asia is America’s to lose, not China’s to win. It will take a lot for China to disrupt this, although Trump’s cavalier rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a strategic unforced error.

Russia is a power in decline. This makes it more dangerous, especially because it has weapons of mass destruction. There must be continued vigilance and deterrence through a reinvigorated NATO alliance.

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Three Cheers for Multilateralism

The international system – liberal and multilateral – is shifting and drifting. If we are not careful, like Humpty Dumpty, it is headed for a very big fall.

Created by the U.S. and its allies after the Second World War, the system has overseen an extraordinary period of global peace and prosperity. This operating system is characterized by freer trade and the market economy, alliances of representative governments and rules-based international institutions with multilateral membership. Although imperfect, it is better than previous systems and there have been continuous incremental improvements.

Multilateralism, the means by which medium and small powers level the field against big and super powers, is the greatest diplomatic innovation of recent times. Born out of Wilsonian idealism, its first manifestation in the League of Nations was handicapped from birth when the U.S. Senate rejected involvement. Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill’s Atlantic Charter gave multilateralism new life that was elaborated at the Quebec conference hosted by Mackenzie King. It took form in the Bretton Woods twins – the International Monetary Fund and World Bank – then the United Nations and its alphabet soup of agencies and, later, within the Geneva-based World Trade Organization.

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Prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (foreground centre) confers with U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill at the First Quebec Conference in August 1943.

Multilateralism has been at the core of Canadian foreign policy since the Second World War. It serves Canadian interests. Canada and other constructive powers must keep these institutions relevant and efficient through constant vigilance. This means permanent efforts to cut waste, check corruption and streamline the tendency to mind-numbing bureaucracy.

There are other ideas on how to fix multilateralism. Ivo Daalder (now CEO of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs) and James Lindsay (Council on Foreign Relations) argue in their book, The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership (2018) and in their recent Foreign Affairs article, “The Committee to Save the World Order,” that we need to turn to some of the bigger countries to lead. While their analysis is excellent, I think their prescription is too narrowly based.

The Germans and the French are planning to launch an alliance for multilateralism which will include Canada, at the UN General Assembly this fall.  Its intent is to create a “global network of like-minded states which are convinced that pursuing legitimate, national interests and protecting the collective property of humankind are fully compatible, not mutually exclusive.” It deserves three cheers.

Just as in 1945, when 40+ future members of the UN contributed to creating it and its functional agencies, so today, liberal democracies, regardless of size, need to stand up and make functional contributions. The functional principle – nations contribute based on competence and capacity – rather than on sheer size, guided Canadian policy-making at that time.

Multilateralism is imperfect. It has not met the ambitiousness of its original design. It often limps along and disappoints. But that is the reality in a world order where great powers will always play a disproportionate role and where there is a trapdoor for the superpowers, especially in advancing their own interests. The wonder is not its flaws, but that it operates as well as it does.

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Essential Relationships

The essential relationships for the West in the 21st century span three oceans. There is the traditional transatlantic relationship of the U.S., the EU and Canada and now the transindo-pacific relationship of these nations with Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and like-minded liberal democracies in Asia and the Americas. With global warming, a fourth ocean, the Arctic, may come into play.

Both NATO and the G7 are open communities of shared democratic scope. NATO membership should be broadened to include partner countries, starting with Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The G7 should broaden its membership to include India and Mexico and, in time, Brazil. Membership in NATO needs a litmus test to weed out the authoritarians. The G7 booted out Russia when it invaded Crimea. Should Turkey and Hungary be suspended from NATO until they clean up their acts?

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More Attention to India

From a liberal democratic perspective, the India relationship could become indispensable in the pivotal Indo-Pacific region, with India becoming another anchor nation along with Korea and Japan in the northeast Pacific, and with Australia and New Zealand to the south. India is embracing the digital economy, revitalizing its military and will soon surpass China in population. India lives in a nuclear neighbourhood. Borders with China and Pakistan are contested. India is cacophonous, unruly and as much riven as united by its colourful diversity. But as the “great game” enters a new chapter, India matters.

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Adam Smith is Still Right

Trade, the lifeblood of globalization, is being blamed for de-industrialization in the U.S. and Europe, even though the economic evidence points to technological innovation and automation as the real reasons. However, there is no doubt that a significant percentage of manufacturing jobs in traditional industries like steel, textiles and household appliances have moved to Asia, especially to China.

Nearly half of Canada’s national income depends on trade. With the Canada-U.S. FTA and then NAFTA, trade-led growth has generated continuing prosperity for Canadians, notwithstanding internal trade barriers that remain the unfinished business of Confederation.

While trade helped to lift a billion people from poverty in Asia, it contributed to unemployment in the West at the same time that companies restructured to shed costs like pensions and health benefits for their employees. Trade, which led global economic growth, has slowed in recent years and there are counter-forces – in-shoring, piracy, protectionism – that threaten to upend global supply chains.

This has particular implications for Canada as more and more of our manufacturing trade is in what economists call intermediate goods – the parts, for example, produced by Canadian auto parts champions like Magna, Linamar and Martinrea, that move back and forth across borders.

With global trade talks (Doha round) going nowhere and the WTO dispute settlement approaching impotence as the U.S. withholds agreement on the appointment of new judges, global trade policy will go into limbo. Trade will be managed more through quotas, voluntary restraints and other mechanisms. Future progress will depend on and take place within groupings of like-minded nations.

For Canada, regional trade blocs, like the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) are the best option to keep trade flowing. This is where new standards on intellectual property and e-commerce, and disciplines of state-owned enterprises, will be developed and then tested.

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The China Problem

There is a genuine problem with China. It is a highly non-transparent and less-than-free market economy. Its accession to the WTO was dubious. It was given privileges on intellectual property and industrial policies without any enforcement mechanisms. These things continue to violate the understandings that make the trading system’s political economy work.

Can China and the U.S. work out their differences on regulating state-owned enterprises, intellectual property and technology transfers? Will China recognize the value of protecting its own intellectual property?  Self-interest would suggest an eventual deal, especially if China is to succeed with its 2025 Made-in-China initiative. If this happens, there will likely be a critical mass to restore a rules-based global trading system because China will have skin in the game. For now, it’s a messy world.

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The Democratic Deficit

While the losses are still shallow compared with the gains in the 20th century, Freedom House has recorded a decline in global freedom for 13 consecutive years. The decline is recorded in longstanding democracies like the U.S. and through the consolidation of authoritarianism in China, Russia, Turkey, Hungary and elsewhere.

This decline is accompanied by an increasing loss of popular confidence in the ability of liberal democracies to solve problems. Citizens feel that the next generation will be worse off than they are. They blame growing inequality, seemingly uncontrolled migration, terrorism and climate change. These are the factors that fuel populism, nativism and protectionism and the appeal of strong men with simple solutions. There are a host of international organizations – America’s  National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, the  German stiftung  and Canada’s own Parliamentary Center – that do good work in  helping to build and nurture democratic norms and institutions. It’s a smart investment.

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Protest for Change

Democracies and autocracies throw up movements that can change the current social, economic and political trajectories. As the third ring in the global operating system, they are increasingly empowered by social media, and social movements are phenomena that can effect major change. They often blend into transnational issues – inequality, climate change and non-proliferation. A multilateral approach is usually the best way to deal with them, as demonstrated through global efforts on controlling and curbing pandemics, international crime and terrorism.

Since the Second World War, these global efforts have included the peace movement (first nuclear disarmament and now anti-war) and democratic movements (as in Eastern Europe in 1989 and then the Arab Spring). They also include civil rights (initially for African-Americans but now for all dispossessed groups – the Occupy movement, Idle No More and #MeToo – with branching out into abortion, LGBTQ rights, marijuana, same-sex marriage, privacy, consumer rights and diversity), and the environment (banning DDT, acid rain, ozone and climate change).

Lack of confidence in leadership translates to growing defiance against elites and established institutions, including government, Big Business, the church and unions.

Social change appears to follow a pattern. Local and subnational governments respond to a movement, and then a key event – often a court decision or a grassroots campaign – triggers a rush of activity that ultimately leads to change embodied in national or international law. Social media are helping to speed the pace of change and in democracies, to accelerate the defeat, even the demise, of traditional parties and the rise of new ones. If these movements are mostly positive, those in reaction to globalization – anti-trade, anti-migrant, intolerant religious fundamentalism – are dangerous and feed a perverse nationalism that encourages authoritarianism. Democratic governments are grappling with this challenge. With citizens’ rights in the areas of privacy and surveillance, it’s no easy task.

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Addressing Inequality

The middle class feels it is slipping. A small percentage has moved upwards to enjoy Chardonnay and foreign chateaux, but the larger percentage of what used to be the middle class is drifting downwards into a precarious blue-collar existence that is one or two misfortunes away from poverty. They are employed, but their lives are full of worries: aging parents, insufficient pensions, inadequate health care and education. Most are pessimistic about the prospects for the next generation.

Meanwhile, public trust in government remains at near historic lows. Democracies are particularly vulnerable because of growing polarizationand the time it takes to get stuff done. The safety nets that government is expected to provide – public education, public health, pensions – are fraying because there is also a growing allergy to taxation (always the case in the U.S.) and because of the growing perception that special interests like Big Business get their way.

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Big Business’ Reputational Problems

Big corporations – Boeing, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and SNC Lavalin – are increasingly perceived as corrupt and their products and services as rotten, if not dangerous. There is also a perception that they have undue influence on governments.

Companies need to take social responsibility seriously, starting with their own employees. The balance between workers and shareholders is seen to have skewed too much toward investors and the investment class.

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Climate Change

The science is unambiguous globally and in Canada. Global warming also contributes to inequality with hotter, poorer countries becoming less productive, while cooler, wealthier countries have benefited.

Carbon mitigation is complicated. Environmentalists with an understandable impatience for action want governments to act now. Governments employ various strategies: mitigation through housing and transportation codes, research into carbon sequestration and battery storage, a shift to renewables and nuclear power, and taxing pollution. It’s all about getting the right balance so as to carry the public with them.

For a brief moment, Canada looked like it had its act together. Alas, a combination of stupidity, shrillness and politics has left us in a mess. Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg gets it right when she says: “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”

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Loose Nukes

Climate change may have replaced nuclear winter as the existential threat of our time, but nuclear proliferation kept every previous postwar American president awake at night. Three-D printed weapons could mean the end of non-proliferation, which is yet another reason the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has reset the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight.

Arms control is heading south as the Russians and the U.S. set aside the INF treaty and reinvigorate their nuclear capacities, as others are doing. Pakistan, India and China are adding stock and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has demonstrated his new capacity in spectacular fashion. With the Iran deal in jeopardy, Saudi Arabia wants nuclear capacity. Reinstituting the regular Obama-initiated nuclear security summits would be a worthwhile Canadian initiative.

An even more useful initiative: Kazakhstan, Australia and Canada account for more than two-thirds of global uranium production. What if the three agreed to become permanent stewards of used uranium products? They would permanently “own” their uranium and ensure that its waste, including radioactive and fissile material, was properly disposed of, perhaps in mines no longer in production. While this doesn’t solve the problem of existing nuclear waste, it would control most new supply. The International Atomic Energy Agency would provide on-site accounting oversight and supervise the transportation of all uranium. Rates would reflect risks to make it commercially and politically viable. Given their secure geography, Canada and Australia would have to take the lead in long-term global disposal.

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Digital Conflict

The new warfare is already in use. China, Russia, North Korea and Iran regularly apply hybrid tactics and cyber-sabotage. They subvert our democracies and can disrupt our critical infrastructure. The U.S. has argued for closer collaboration among allies to “name and shame” and make it clear that the costs of such actions outweigh the benefits for the perpetrators. This should be a priority at the next NATO summit.

We need commonly agreed-upon standards on hybrid and cyber-warfare. Should we negotiate a Geneva convention with our adversaries on cyber-weapons? World leaders did it on the use of chemical and biological weapons after the First World War and while there have been violations, it has mostly endured.

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Things that Go Bang in the Night

Terrorism is a scourge as old as recorded history. It’s a chronic condition but not an existential threat as long as intelligence services and police can keep weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological, nuclear – out of their hands. What the police and security services can control and curb, soft power must try to convert the indoctrinated recognizing that not all are convertible, which is why we need Special Forces to manage evil-doers.

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Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

Not since the Second World War have there been so many displaced persons. The UNHCR and refugee agencies mitigate but the Global Compact on Migration gets it right when it argues for migration that is safe, orderly and regular.

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Water Wars?

What oil and gas were to the 20th century, water will likely be to the 21st century. Participants at Davos this year ranked the threat of a water crisisas the biggest single risk facing North Africa and the Middle East. Former ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer has warned that water diplomacy with the U.S. will make the debates on Keystone “look silly”.  As reservoir to about one-fifth of fresh water, Canada is blessed, but we should become experts on water efficiency, technology and recycling.

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Depressed?

Former president Barack Obama was close to the mark when he wrote in 2016: “If you had to choose any time in the course of human history to be alive, you’d choose this one. Right here in America, right now.” Most of the world is at peace and people are living longer. In the U.S., crime, poverty and unemployment rates are at all-time lows.

Multilateralism is still working. The UN Millennium Goals achieved many of their objectives. The proportion of people who can read and write is about the proportion that could not 200 years ago. While the emancipation of women still has miles to go, especially in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, smarter national leaders are beginning to acknowledge that educated and liberated women mean more productivity and better educated children. While there are more displaced persons than at any time since the Second World War, there is a global migration compact aimed at safe, orderly and regular migration. Even if Trump took the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, there is growing global action on climate.

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…So What Does All This Mean for Canada?

Every prime minister’s desk has three permanent files: national security and well-being, national unity and Canada-U.S. relations.

The nation’s security and well-being depend on managing the economy and attending to defence and security needs. This means prudent fiscal stewardship and monetary oversight, investments in public infrastructure, open trade, a skills-based migration policy and ensuring the provinces have sufficient funds for education and health. All of these contribute to generating national income. National security means investments: in vigilant border security; in NORAD and our air and maritime defence; and in hardening cyber-defences for critical infrastructure – transportation, electricity and energy, and banking. Given the changing security environment, it should also mean investment in ballistic missile defence through NORAD.

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A Clubbable Country

Canada belongs to almost every multilateral club, be it economic, security, general or specific purpose in creation. On balance this is a good thing, but prioritization of attention and resources is overdue. The first tier would include Five Eyes, NORAD and CUSMA. The second tier would include the G7, G20, NATO, CETA, CPTPP and the Pacific Alliance. The UN, OECD, APEC, the Commonwealth and the Francophonie would be the third tier.

We should also invest more in some of our relationships. If the future is Asia, then India, Japan, Korea and Indonesia should be priorities. And the entrée into the Americas is Mexico.

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YCDBSOYA

When George Hees was Canada’s minister of Trade and Commerce, he had cufflinks and tie clips prepared for his trade commissioners, who in this earlier age were all men. The cufflinks were initialled YCDBSOYA: You Can’t Do Business Sitting On Your Ass. The motto should be resurrected for today’s trade commissioners and engraved on the backs of their iPhones or BlackBerries. The same should be done for the prime minister, his cabinet and Canada’s premiers and trade ministers, as this needs to be a Team Canada Inc. effort.

While we have done a good job in opening the doors to trade, we need to generate more trade deals. This is hard in a nation with a few big enterprises and lots of SMEs. There is no magic formula. All levels of government need to work with local business to identify opportunities. We could learn from Asian nations – Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan – in their ability to aggregate capacities and then bid on big projects.

Canadians are skilled at the extraction of minerals and growing and harvesting food from land and sea. We are not so good at getting our products to market. “Build Canada” should be a Team Canada Inc. project.  Stranded assets shortchange the nation and ignore its geopolitical value.

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Attracting Talent

Our skills-based immigration program has netted us a lot of talent. Expanding the annual target to about one per cent of our population makes sense. Canada’s birth rate does not replenish our population.

Our refugee policy is generous, but Canadians expect people to play by the rules. Enforcement, including deportation of queue-jumpers and those found inadmissible, is necessary to sustain public confidence. It is also vital to preserving U.S. confidence that Canada holds up its end in a perimeter approach to who and what come into North America. The 9/11 Commission report worried about Canadian immigration, especially from North Africa (the Millennium Bomber, Ahmed Ressam, was from Algeria) and it has remained a recurring American worry.

Canada needs a global education strategy. More Canadians should be encouraged to study abroad. Canada does well in attracting foreign students, but we could do better. Foreign students and foreign studies not only make our universities more cosmopolitan but they are also potential future talent for Canada. Those who return to their native lands are usually very positive about their Canadian experience and they become valuable bridges between our countries.

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More Navy

Canada needs to embrace digital sea power and be better prepared in the Indo-Pacific and Arctic.

By harnessing technology and the application of Big Data, we will create the next generation of surface and underwater naval combatants. Manned and unmanned, these warships and submarines are the weapons necessary to meet traditional and grey-zone threats

What the Atlantic was to the 19th century, the Indo-Pacific will be to the 21st century. Canada needs to re-imagine our naval base in Esquimalt and our air base in Comox. Roughly 80 per cent of global trade is transported by sea. Sixty per cent of maritime trade passes through Asia, with the South China Sea carrying an estimated one-third of global shipping. Annual defence spending in the Indo-Pacific has doubled since 2000 to $450 billon – more than $200 billion of that by China – and the region is forecast to surpass the U.S. as the world’s biggest spender on weapons by 2029. By 2035, half the world’s submarines will patrol Indo-Pacific waters, according to Australia’s 2016 defence white paper.

While we take justifiable pride in our armed forces, the U.S. bears the burden of continental defence (through NORAD) and collective security (through NATO). Successive presidents have complained about sharing the burden. Trump doesn’t like multilateralism, nor will he underwrite the allies.

Self-interest and self-respect should oblige Canada to invest more. This means air defence – satellites, drones and fighter jets – but the focus should be on our naval forces. We are ringed by three oceans. This means completing the promised Arctic patrol ships, icebreakers and new surface combatants. It means commissioning the next generation of submarines and more multi-purpose ships.

The Americans regularly remind us: if you claim sovereignty in the Arctic, then exercise that sovereignty. We need an Arctic naval base – the Harper government proposed Nanisivik, Nunavut – and search-and-rescue posts. If the Russians can do it, so can we.

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Keeping it Together

National unity is not easy in a nation that, by comparison to Europe or Asia, is new, covers more time zones than any mainland nation but Russia and aims to make a virtue of its diversity.  Canadians are progressive but prudent. The challenges of geography and climate mean that we also understand compromise. Unlike Americans, who run the attitudinal gamut from A-Z, the Canadian spectrum would be F-M.

For the poet-philosopher Frank Scott, the mantra of our longest serving prime minister, Mackenzie King, was “do nothing by halves that can be done by quarters.” Scott feared it encouraged mediocrity, but for a nation in continuous development, initiatives like reconciliation with First Nations take time and patience. In contrast to the American mantra of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Canadians are well served sticking with “peace, order and good government.”

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Managing Uncle Sam

Life with Uncle Sam is never easy. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s advice stands: “The golden rule of Canada-US relations is very simple. We can disagree without being disagreeable. The Americans are very important to us. We know they are, notwithstanding the differences, our best ally, our closest neighbour, our biggest customer. There is also a rule of global politics – Canada’s influence in the world is measured to a significant degree by the extent to which we are perceived as having real influence in Washington.”

The coda to the golden rule is that serious Americans (not Trump) appreciate the insights and intelligence our foreign service can bring to the table. This is why we need ambassadors in Tehran, Riyadh and Pyongyang. Diplomatic recognition is not a “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval. It’s how we conduct business and protect Canadian interests.  It’s also why we need to invest in our diplomatic service and develop expertise and empathy in foreign cultures.

This also means making investments and sharing the burden. A 2015 study for the Canadian International Council concluded that “Canada’s engagement is so low that today it meets the statistical definition of an international ‘free rider.’” Is Canada really back? If you want to play, you have to pay.

Former Foreign Affairs minister John Manley observed that as the waiter bringing the tab approaches the table, the Canadian tendency is to head to the toilet and leave the bill to others (usually Uncle Sam). We still fall short (1.23 per cent of GDP) of the NATO target of two per cent GDP on defence spending. Our international development assistance (0.26 per cent GDP) remains well short of the 0.7 per cent endorsed by the G7. If the British can manage it, why can’t Canada?

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Avoid Temptations

Canadian leadership needs to avoid three temptations:

First, avoid smugness and the temptation to preach. In former U.S. secretary of state Dean Acheson’s memorable phrase (recalled  from William Wordsworth’s poem  Ode to Duty) , Canadians have a tendency to act like the “the stern daughter of the voice of God.” Virtue is a quality but it won’t win us a UN Security Council seat. Humility, being constructive and paying our way is better statecraft.

Second, recognize our limitations.  Championing the cause of the Rohingya, participating in the Lima Group’s efforts on Venezuela, hosting meetings on North Korea and working to improve the WTO’s dispute settlement are examples of constructive diplomatic entrepreneurship.  But we can’t fix everything. Canadian achievement:  Louis St. Laurent and Lester Pearson and peacekeeping in 1956;, the Brian Mulroney-Joe Clark work on South Africa and German reunification;, the Jean Chrétien-Lloyd Axworthy security agenda that produced the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, and the International Criminal Court; Stephen Harper’s work on maternal  health and John Baird’s ‘girls not brides’ initiative –   came about through a confluence of time and events.  They cannot be planned and even then, they require strong leadership – a dedicated prime minister and energetic foreign minister and a foreign service at the top of its game. There are no guarantees of success. Not everything endures, as we have learned with Responsibility to Protect. Thus the need to focus and decide what best serves Canadian interests. It means hard choices and hard questions: Why peace operations in Mali?  Why not more in Haiti or in Central America?

Third, playing diaspora politics hurts national security and bilateral relations. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau learned this during his magical mystery tour of India.

With one in five Canadians born abroad, including half of our biggest city, Canadians are the people of the world. The Aga Khan set up his centre for pluralism in Canada because he thinks we get it right in how to manage diversity. Canadian citizenship is like winning the lottery, but sometimes it is taken a bit casually. We are more than the “greatest hotel on Earth.”

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Looking Forward

Canada is a blessed nation – in its neighbour, in its resources, in its people. This good fortune can be sustained through prudent but progressive policies at home and constructive internationalism abroad.

In a messy world, providing good government and managing diversity at home will make Canada a country from which other nations can learn.  Canada must always look outwards. Internationalism and multilateralism serve the national interest. These were the principles behind  the speech that defined Canadian postwar policy. Delivered by Louis St. Laurent in January 1947, it still resonates. National unity, political liberty, values and “the acceptance of international responsibility.” These principles still justify an active Canadian role in international affairs and “every international organization which contributes to the economic and political stability of the world.”

As a middle power, we accomplish more when we work with other constructive nations This means reinvigorating our shared multilateral  institutions to set and enforce the rules that level the playing field. It means finding niches where helpful fixing and diplomatic entrepreneurship can be constructively applied. It also means investing money and muscle in our alliances. But we must do this always, always with recognition of our limitations and a realistic appreciation of the world as it is, not as wishful thinking imagines it to be. The arc of history may bend towards justice but human nature being what it is we need checks and balances to support the better angels and contain the dark side.

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R.: Hon. Paul Martin, Hon. Lester B. Pearson and the Rt. Hon. Louis St. Laurent at Ottawa after Pearson’s return from Norway with the Nobel Peace Prize. 

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Further Reading

Robert Kagan’s The Jungle Grows Back: America and our Imperiled World argues that the world is inching closer to a dark jungle of competing interests, clashing nationalism, tribalism and self-interest. Two other Brookings scholars’ books are Stewart Patrick’s The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World and Thomas Wright’s All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power. In a similar genre are Ivo Daalder’s and James Lindsay’s The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership and Michael Mandelbaum’s The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth.

Gideon Rachman’s Easternization: Asia’s Rise and America’s Decline from Obama to Trump and Beyond argues that Asian nations’ growing wealth is a trend that will only continue, challenging Western power and influence. Parag Khanna’s The Future is Asian: Commerce, Conflict and Culture in the 21stCentury argues that the Asian century is dawning as Asia becomes more than the sum of its parts (and he argues the Belt and Road Initiative has done this). Kai-Fu Lee, in AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, says that China will soon overtake the United States as the world leader in innovation.  For a harsher view on China, read Michael Pillsbury’s The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower and for another provocative view, read Kishore Mahbubani’s Has the West Lost It?A Provocation.

Hal Brands and Charles Edel, in The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and World Order, take the long view of history.

Graham Allison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape the Thucydides Trap? argues that in 12 of 16 cases over the past 500 years, things have ended badly, often for both nations. When the parties avoided war, it required huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions, not only on the part of the challenger, but also the challenged.

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis is a riveting account of the forces that Trump channels.

If you despair, reach for Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

For annual global threat analysis, look to the Council on Foreign Relations’ annual Preventive Priorities Survey  and the Munich Security Report’s aptly named “The Great Puzzle: Who Will Pick up the Pieces?” The New America Foundation’s Peter Singer has a very good essay entitled Insurgency in 2030.

As for Canada: Randolph Mank asks whether Canada needs a foreign policy review, in a CGAI policy paper (2019). Roland Paris’s letter to the prime minister, “Time to Make Ourselves Useful,” in the Literary Review of Canada (2015) has continued relevance, as does A Global Positioning Strategy for a Networked Age, by Edward Greenspon of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (2012).

China Kovrig and Spavor

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Surviving a diplomatic brawl with China takes patience, discretion: Japanese ambassador

‘Canada is not the only country whose nationals are detained in China’ – Kimihiro Ishikane

 

The arrest and detention of two Canadians by China late last year was an event that looked eerily familiar to Japan. It is, for the government in Tokyo, part of a pattern they have had to contend with over the last few years.

China’s detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — allegedly in retaliation over Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the U.S. on fraud charges — shocked the general public in this country and left federal policymakers reeling.

For Japan, however, such conflicts are just a basic feature of its relationship with an enormous and powerful neighbour — something to be handled with extraordinary delicacy.

Which is why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can be expected to compare notes with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, when the two meet this weekend.

“Canada is not the only country whose nationals are detained in China,” Kimihiro Ishikane, Japan’s ambassador to Canada, told CBC News. “A certain number of our nationals are also detained in China.”

 

Japanese Ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane speaks to CBC News on April 24, 2019. (CBC News/Andrew Lee)

Since China updated its national security laws in late 2014, nine Japanese citizens have been jailed or detained in China on espionage-related charges.

Some have been held for up to three years, while at least one recently received a 12-year jail sentence for spying last July.

There is a long history of diplomatic tension between Tokyo and Beijing, but it was rekindled in 2012 in a dispute over eight uninhabited islands — little more than hunks of rock — in the East China Sea.

Both countries lay claim to the islands, which are known as the Diaoyu islands in China and as the Senkaku islands in Japan.

They’re important economically because of potential mineral reserves and fishing rights in the surrounding seas. Their strategic military value comes from their proximity to nearby shipping lanes.

Japan recently deployed ground forces and missiles near the islands, where Chinese warships frequently sail.

The takeaway for Canada from this long-running saga, said Ishikane, is that managing and resolving a dispute with China requires patience, stamina and consistent messaging.

“We have to be very, extremely cautious in how we convey the message,” he said. “How we convey the message, who conveys it, at what time and how.”

Canada hasn’t exactly excelled in its message management since the Chinese detained Kovrig and Spavor late last year. Early this year, Trudeau fired his then-ambassador to China, John McCallum, after the ambassador appeared to be stepping offside with the Liberal government in controversial remarks about Wanzhou’s extradition case.

Since then, the diplomatic brawl with the Chinese has spread to the canola fields of Western Canada, where a move by China to block shipments of canola seed has producers looking anxiously to planting season

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe before a family photograph during the G7 leaders summit in La Malbaie, Que., on Friday, June 8, 2018. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ishikane said Abe and his country’s foreign minister have picked their moments to make their points with China.

“Sometimes we need to say it in public, and many times we need to do that in a very discreet manner,” he said.

Relations between Japan and China did warm up following Abe’s trip to Beijing last fall. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Japan for this year’s G20 summit in Osaka.

The gathering of world leaders is also something Abe and Trudeau will talk about — but the matter of the detainees feeds into the important, big-picture questions the two prime ministers will have to consider this weekend, said Ishikane.

“How to interact with China? How to have a constructive relation with that huge country is an area where we can really compare notes,” he said. “China is an opportunity, but could be a challenge.”

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said China has been playing hardball with Canada and the Liberal government should push back more forcefully, even at the risk of further retaliation.

“The Chinese will continue to ratchet up the pressure. I think they truly believe — they’re convinced — that if they put enough pressure on us we will free Meng Wanzhou,” he said.

Beijing has “the weight and they’ll swing it and they do it in part to demonstrate” that to other nations, he added.

Robertson said the Trudeau government should recognize that it is dealing with an authoritarian regime which takes “hostages” to secure leverage — which should come as no surprise, since China was using it as a part of its statecraft during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

Take Advantage of CETA

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Canadian businesses not seizing on CETA as much as Europeans, need a culture shift, say analysts

By Neil Moss      
The feds hope small- and medium-sized businesses take advantage of new export opportunities, but transportation costs may deter many.
International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr says the government’s plan to increase overseas exports by 50 per cent by 2025 is rooted in the ‘art of the possible.’ The The European Union’s ambassador to Canada says though it’s been more than a year and a half since the two sides’ trade deal largely came into effect, EU companies have been more aggressive exploring new opportunities in Canada than Canadian companies have in Europe.

While the Canadian government has touted such deals in its desire to diversify Canadian trade, experts say a trade deal can only go so far, and there needs to be a culture shift to get Canadian businesses to think beyond the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner.

In the first year since the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU was 98 per cent provisionally implemented in September 2017, there was an increase of 4.5 per cent in bilateral trade. EU exports to Canada have risen nine to 10 per cent, Peteris Ustubs told reporters on April 12, but Canadian exports have been largely flat. Twelve of 28 EU countries have ratified the deal, but all must do so for the sweeping deal to be fully permanently in force.

“I think Canadian enterprises should discover more [about] Europe,” he said. “And diversifying its exports all across [the] European Union and [making] sure that CETA is used by all sizes of enterprises,” whether they’re big business or small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

But it’s up for debate if SMEs will ever look to Europe in large numbers, say trade analysts.

“l believe the government is doing as much as government can do. At the end of the day, it’s up to the businesses to be able to step up and take the risk and invest the time and the money and the blood, sweat, and tears to go into new markets,” said Adam Taylor, president of Export Action Global. “Governments can only do so much.”

SMEs make up of the vast majority of Canada’s private sector with more than 90 per cent of the workforce, and 95 per cent of net job creation, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Approximately 25 per cent of Canada’s exports are from small- and medium-sized businesses, but the great majority are sent to the United States.

In the 2018 fall economic statement, the government set a goal to increase overseas exports by 50 per cent by 2025 as part of its Export Diversification Strategy. The strategy allotted $1.1-billion for improvements in trade infrastructure, as well as resources for exports, including $184-million for the Trade Commissioner Service.

EU Ambassador Peteris Ustubs says EU companies have been more aggressive than their Canadian counterparts in exploring new export opportunities. The Hill Times file photograph

Mr. Taylor—who was a former senior adviser to then-international trade minister Ed Fast during the CETA negotiations—said it is the “ultimate Canadian challenge” to convince Canadian businesses to look away from the American export market.

During the CETA negotiations, Mr. Fast launched the Global Markets Action Plan that targeted SMEs to look beyond the American market, as statistics pointed that if the number of small- and medium-sized businesses that looked at emerging markets doubled, tens and thousands of jobs would be created, Mr. Taylor said.

“[It’s] a real true culture shift or transformative move to look beyond the U.S. market and look to markets where you just don’t have a natural … easy geographical place to go,” he said, “and that’s a real challenge.”

International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre, Man.) told The Hill Times CETA is “progressing well,” citing increases of merchandise exports to the EU of 4.4 per cent and service increases of 6.4 per cent. He also said exports subject to duty to countries under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have increased by 20 per cent.

Mr. Carr noted the goal to increase overseas export by 50 per cent isn’t “pure science,” but it is based in the “art of the possible.”

He added that is in the national interest of both the government and exporters to diversify and expand their trading markets.

Conservative MP Randy Hoback (Prince Albert, Sask.) said it’s tough for Canada to compete on the global trade market due to high taxes, which will prevent Canada from reaching its increased export goal.

Carlo Dade, director of the trade and investment centre at the Canada West Foundation, said it’s up to individual companies to decide if it makes sense for them.

“Time and time again, [Canadian companies] will not look beyond the U.S., and that’s just an intransigence at that level that is incredible hard to move,” Mr. Dade said, adding that success from the trade diversification strategy is not going to be a massive shift, but “a modest bump” in companies looking at other markets.

Mr. Dade said he is optimistic as some companies have been thinking about the EU market, and out of those he expects a “handful” to make the move towards the new market opportunities.

“At least for the first time, they’re asking questions,” he said.

The many trade support services can confuse and scare small businesses as there can be 10 to 12 agencies, and Mr. Dade said business owners are unsure which one is meant for them.

Corinne Pohlmann, senior vice-president of national affairs and partnerships at Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), which represents SMEs, said the federal Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) can be helpful if a business is in one of the sectors the government has targeted for export growth.

Ms. Pohlmann added that many small businesses don’t know about the TCS.

“They don’t know they exist and they don’t know what they do,” she said, adding she has spoken to a couple of small business owners who didn’t think the TCS would deal with them as they are too small.

Around one-quarter of CFIB members export, and the “vast majority” export to the United States, she said, while only about five per cent ship to Europe. Ms. Pohlmann said one of the biggest barriers to greater exports is transportation costs, which will always make the United States an attractive export market.

“Most” of the trade promotion funding allocated by the government was aimed at SMEs, Mr. Carr told The Hill Times.

Businesses want ‘lion’s share’ of focus to support Canada-U.S. trade, says NDP MP Ramsey

NDP MP Tracey Ramsey (Essex, Ont.), her party’s international trade critic, said she has heard a common complaint from businesses that there is inadequate support systems to help them export.

“I would like to see more people in the Trade Commissioner Service to be able to help SMEs,” she said.

Canadian businesses that have spoken to NDP MP Tracey Ramsey have told her that they want the ‘lion’s share’ of Canada’s trade agenda to be focused on improving Canada-U.S. trade, she said. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Ms. Ramsey said many of the services, like the TCS, as well as the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC), are set up to serve large companies.

As vice-chair of the House International Trade Committee, Ms. Ramsey said she has heard from SMEs and big companies that they want the “lion’s share” of Canada’s trade agenda to be focused on improving Canada-U.S. trade.

“The other deals are … things very far down the road potentially in the future, whereas our trade with the United States is very tangible and real to them,” she added.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), replacing NAFTA, has been signed, but has yet to be ratified as U.S. Democrats in the House of Representatives have raised concerns over labour and environmental provisions.

Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business, said trade trouble with the United States doesn’t directly correlate with a company’s desire to diversify.

He said trade disputes have to get pretty bad before companies look to other markets, and for many Canadian companies their position with the U.S. hasn’t reached that level. Mr. Langrish added that some companies may be looking at the EU and not seeing the type of “home runs” they have gotten through exporting to the United States, and without that opportunity, companies have been hesitant to invest the energy into penetrating a new market.

There has also been a level of risk aversion for Canadian companies, Mr. Langrish said, as they look at the trade uncertainty due to Brexit in the United Kingdom, Canada’s largest European trading partner.

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and trade negotiator on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, said it will take a while before a noticeable increase in Canadian exports to the EU, requiring hard work that will take time. Mr. Robertson said it usually takes two or three years before results of any trade deal are seen.

“I think [it’s] true of all governments, whether it’s Conservative, Liberal, and NDP … [they] sometimes get taken up with rhetoric and forget about the absolute real hard work that has to go into actually turning an opportunity into profit,” the former Canadian consul general in Los Angeles said.

Aside from the overall export numbers associated with CETA, there are signs of “really strong growth,” said Brian Kingston, vice-president of international and fiscal policy at the Business Council of Canada. He said sectors that had tariffs cut by one per cent or more by the deal experienced 21 per cent growth in 2018.

Both Mr. Kingston and Mark Agnew, senior director of international policy at Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said that now is the time for businesses to take advantage of the market access opportunities, as they are in a preferred position compared to American companies, and that likely will end some time in the future.

Prior to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016, the United States and the EU were in the midst of free trade negotiations, but they were halted by the Trump administration.

“This isn’t a permanent advantage that we have, there is a relatively short window that we should be taking advantage of right now to the max,” Mr. Kingston said.

China: Canola and Kovrig & Spavor

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For months, both Canadian citizens and a key part of the Canadian economy have been held hostage by China. After Canada’s detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, Beijing responded; for nearly 150 days, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been jailed, denied legal representation, forced to endure sleep deprivation and, in the case of the latter, had his diplomatic immunity abused as an on-leave Canadian foreign-service officer. Beijing then claimed that our canola is infected by pests. That canola embargo is a double whammy: It cuts our current market in half, and also sows doubt among Canadians about our health and safety standards.

If the Trudeau government continues to let this pass without response, we can expect the Chinese to ratchet up the pressure. Our beef, pork and seafood could be next. It’s due time for more muscular action.

To address the canola embargo, we need to implement a food chain and inspection system that is the best in the world. We need to show foreign customers and Canadians alike that our food is of the highest quality and that “Made in Canada” is a signal of a premium brand.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is sending a minister-led delegation to demonstrate to Chinese authorities that Canadian canola is pest-free. To prepare for the inevitably long waits to see Chinese officials, the delegation should read Lord Macartney’s account of his 1793 mission to China’s emperor, which was unsuccessful because of the deep divides between the two sides.

The success of any Canadian mission will not come in China, but in visits to markets of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. To help those efforts, we should redeploy the trade commissioners recently added to China to those markets instead.

The United States needs to do more to help with the detained Canadians. Our unenviable position stems from Washington’s extradition request of Ms. Meng, and that process, governed by the rule of law, was needlessly complicated when Donald Trump mused about including her in a China-U.S. trade deal. But if there is a deal, the U.S. must receive assurances that Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor will be freed.

Canada should take the plight of the hostages to the various international human-rights tribunals and encourage human-rights NGOs to include them in their advocacy. We are championing the displaced Rohingya; why not press the cause of the million-plus Uyghurs kept in Chinese concentration camps? It will demonstrate to China that size does not mean a pass on human rights.

We should apply Magnitsky sanctions against those responsible for depriving the two Canadians of their human rights. We should also put a hold on student visas for the children of senior Chinese officials. As for Chinese goods entering Canada, they need careful inspection with a “name and shame” approach to counterfeits and tainted goods.

We should also formally declare that Huawei equipment will not be used in our 5G network buildout because we do not trust China. We should stand with our Five Eyes intelligence partners – the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand – who fear Huawei will be a conduit for Chinese espionage or cybersabotage.

Our intelligence agencies report that Chinese agents are engaging in illicit activities, including trying to recruit Chinese students and influence politicians. These agents should be either arrested or, if they are working under diplomatic cover, sent home.

It’s also time to send the current Chinese ambassador packing. Lu Shaye has accused Canada of “Western egotism and white supremacy.” With the forced resignation of John McCallum as Canada’s envoy to China, we also need a new ambassador in Beijing. The Chinese will expect our new envoy to have commensurate stature as our U.S. ambassador, David MacNaughton – a fair request – but we expect a Group of Seven-level ambassador in return.

Our next ambassador needs to be tough-minded and go into the job without illusions. Xi Jinping’s China is authoritarian, and does not care about human rights. It believes that its system is superior and more efficient than liberal democracy.

A resurgent China is using the Meng affair to demonstrate its power and influence, and in doing so, it is redefining the norms of the rules-based order. Other authoritarians, looking to follow China’s lead, are watching closely.

So we must push back. Efforts to bring international pressure to bear on Beijing netted public condemnatory statements on our hostages from some of our allies as well as an open letter from think tanks and former envoys to China. It annoyed and embarrassed Chinese leadership. We need to urge our allies to keep up that pressure.

Turning the other cheek and hoping for a change of heart won’t work. Our hostages and canola farmers need help. Mr. Trudeau, it’s time to fight back.

CGAI Vice President Colin Robertson was on Power & Politics this week to discuss Canada’s trade relationship with China:

 

 

Click Here to watch the full interview.

 

Can Trump get USMCA through Congress?

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Can President Donald Trump do a deal with Congress on the new North American trade pact? The Trump administration will pressure Canada and Mexico to move on USMCA, but let’s wait and see if Mr. Trump can deliver Congress.

Trade accords are like plays in three acts. In the first act, the governments decide on their respective objectives and get formal – as required in the United States – or informal legislative approval. The second act is the negotiation, with the ups and downs of the successive rounds and then the end-game gives and takes that, in the case of the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement culminated in the three leaders’ signature last November.

Now comes the final act, USMCA’s legislative implementation. It’s no sure thing.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his team have been busy drafting legislation and briefing the House ways and means (where USMCA gets first consideration), and the Senate finance committees and their respective trade sub-committees. The International Trade Commission’srequired USMCA economic assessment, delayed by the government shutdown, will likely show marginal economic gains beyond the current trade deal, the North American free-trade agreement.

The Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) gives Congress 90 legislative days to give USMCA up or down approval. Most Republicans will endorse the pact so Senate passage is likely. But passage won’t be easy with various Democratic contenders for 2020 campaigning against Mr. Trump.

A blatantly Trump label on USMCA would likely doom it in a polarized Congress. Should Mr. Trump follow through on his threat to rescind NAFTA and tell the Democrat to take it or leave it, the Democrats may do just that, taking a page from the obstructionist GOP playbook during the Obama administration.

House passage will depend on Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrat committee chairs Richard Neal of Massachusetts and Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer and enough the 100-plus members in the centrist New Democratic Coalition. The progressive wing of the Democrat caucus wants changes. Can Mr. Lighthizer deliver enough of what members will want? Ironically, Mr. Lighthizer will point to the Canadian-inspired labour and environmental chapters with their enforcement provisions to secure Democrats’ votes

As usual, there are competing U.S. interests lobbying for and against USMCA’s passage. Canada and Mexico can play a supporting role in encouraging passage, but now it’s an American debate.

There will be he hiccups. We need to be prepared to reopen the deal if the Democrats insist. As Speaker in 2008, Ms. Pelosi upended the TPA forcing changes to President George W. Bush’s trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and Korea. And how would a U.S.-China deal affect passage Ms. Freeland rightly asks why are they applied against the US’s closest ally?

Americans need to know, as Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week, that passage of USMCA in Canada and Mexico will depend on them rescinding the steel and aluminum tariffs. Imposed under ‘national security’ provisions, Ms. Freeland rightly asks why are they applied against the US’s closest ally?  Economic evidence says that while steel profits may be up, these tariffs are hurting Americans. The lumber tariffs add $9000 to the construction of an American house.

For most of the House and Senate committee members, whether Democrat or Republican, Canada and Mexico are the main export markets for their districts or states. Our diplomats need to drive home this fact pointing out the jobs created by our trade and investment.

Our embassy has state fact sheets and the Business Council of Canada created a nifty district-level map. Our legislators – federal and provincial, as well as business and labour – should draw on them in discussions with their counterparts. We can adjust our advocacy campaign, but we need to sustain its tempo.

Mexico needs to pass labour reform legislation. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s party now controls both chambers in the Mexican Congress and it will likely happen. But not while the tariffs are in place and any U.S. pressure to pay for Mr.Trump’s wall would back-fire.

Much of the new North American accord draws from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership that were negotiated by both the Harper and Trudeau governments. Canada’s fall election may intervene before parliamentarians consider the USMCA. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he could have negotiated a better deal. He may get the chance but, if so, what would he change?

Until Mr. Trump delivers, Canada and Mexico should hold their own ratification efforts. While we should encourage congressional passage, our efforts need to focus on rescinding the steel, aluminum and lumber tariffs. For now, it is up to Mr. Trump and Congress. Let’s see him demonstrate his art of the deal.

Strategic Patience with China

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Strategic patience. That’s what’s needed now with China.

Canada did the right thing in acceding to the U.S. Justice Department’s request to extradite Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou. We long ago allied ourselves to the United States, and this partnership serves Canadian interests.

Unfortunately, our China relationship is now as much hostage to the outcome of the Sino-American trade dispute as are our hostages: Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. The affair does demonstrate to Canadians a different face of China: the ‘claws of the panda’ – the descriptive title of Jonathan Manthorpe’s book outlining Chinese efforts at intimidation and influence in Canada.

Like the rest of the West, successive Canadian governments were dazzled by Chinese growth. The lure of contracts mostly turned a blind eye to its authoritarian excesses. The Harper government had reservations, but most Western governments were willing to give China the benefit of the doubt over its authoritarianism and human-rights abuses. The prevailing belief was that economic progress would inevitably lead to political liberalization.

It turns out that Western democratic liberalism is neither easily transferable nor inevitable. Like Mao Zedong, Chinese President Xi Jinping has achieved personal rule through the Chinese Communist Party. Mr. Xi is reverting to state control of the economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to confront China over its trade practices is long overdue. The forced transfers of technology from companies that partner with Chinese companies, intellectual-property theft, subsidies to state-owned enterprises and dumping steel has hurt Canadians as well as Americans.

The Sino-American tariff war is set to resume in March when U.S rates are scheduled to riseThe tariffs have disrupted the markets and supply chains. They are also hurting the Chinese economy, but the Chinese show no signs of making the necessary structural changes, nor are we anywhere near the verification and enforcement provisions the United States deems foundationalto any China deal.

The Trump approach is awkward. But bringing along the trading partners and using multilateralism is not the Trump way.

Our hostages, meanwhile, are two months into their Chinese captivity. We need to continue rallying international support for their release. It’s a sad reflection on the West that our allies required encouragement, and even then not everyone stood up.

Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye describes Canadian actions as “white supremacy.” He wants us to stop. We must not. We need to keep the public spotlight on our hostages. We should raise their plight in the United Nations Human Rights Council, where Chinese treatment of minority Uyghurs has already come under condemnation.

It’s also time for a strategic shift in Canada’s Asia-Pacific policy. We need to move away from its overriding emphasis on China and focus more on developing markets and shoring up trade and security relations with our democratic partners in the Pacific.

The “window is open” says Japanese Ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane. The Japanese have not always been so forthcoming, so we should take up their offer to expand trade and investment with the world’s third-largest economy.

We also need to make sure we are taking full advantage of our free-trade agreement with South Korea.

Above all, we should prioritize the new Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) with resources and attention. The new partnership, with its high standards and enforcement provisions on intellectual property, labour and the environment, is now our main entrée into the Pacific. We need to encourage the remaining ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and other Pacific countries to join up. With a different president, the United States will likely rejoin the pact. In different circumstances, China might also come aboard. As a recent Peterson Institute report argues, membership offers China a chance “to shape the global innovation economy while signalling clear commitment to outward-oriented reforms and global norms.”

As long as China wants regional dominance with kowtowing tributaries, Canada’s relationship with the Middle Kingdom will be difficult.

China wants to influence our thinking on China, but we need to be sure that its efforts are transparent. We need to practise constructive vigilance in our dealings. This means close attention to Chinese involvement with our businesses, elected officials and academic institutions. We must resist any effort to undermine our democracy. The rule of the law is what differentiates our system from theirs.

Once our hostages are returned, we need a public debate before resetting the relationship. For now, with our trade ambitions in the deep freeze, the best approach to China is strategic patience and a focus on our democratic Pacific partners.

Time for new Ambassadors

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January 27 2019 11:05am

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson tells Mike Le Couteur now that Ambassador McCallum has been ousted as Canada’s ambassador to China, China needs to do the same with its ambassador to Canada.Michael Couture interviews Colin Robertson on West Block

McCallum’s firing an opportunity to ‘reset’ relations with China: former diplomat

VIDEO WILL BEGIN AFTER THESE MESSAGES…X

WATCH: Colin Robertson says China’s Ambassador to Canada should be removed

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The firing of John McCallum as Canada’s ambassador to China represents an opportunity for the two countries to reset their relationship, according to a former diplomat.

READ MORE: McCallum out as Canadian ambassador to China after comments on Meng extradition

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that McCallum had been told to hand in his resignation hours after he was quoted saying it would be “great for Canada” if the U.S. dropped its extradition request for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

McCallum’s firing left Ottawa’s strategy for navigating tensions with Beijing in disarray; it came days after the former immigration minister and Liberal MP said he misspoke in telling Chinese-language journalists that Meng had arguments that could aid her legal fight against extradition.

WATCH: Freeland calls international support from allies ‘encouraging’ over detained Canadians in China


“It’s an opportunity to reset the relationship. We’ve now got the opportunity to put in a new ambassador,” Colin Robertson, former diplomat and vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, said on The West Block on Sunday.

READ MORE: Detention of Canadians by China was ‘retaliation’ for Meng arrest: former U.S. envoy to China

“I think we should also be pushing for a new Chinese ambassador because some of the comments that he’s made about white supremacy are just off the reservation,” Robertson added in reference to ambassador Lu Shaye’s accusation that Canada’s calls for the release of detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were driven by “Western egotism and white supremacy.”

WATCH: Government explains firing of Canada’s Ambassador to China

Robertson said the appointment of new ambassadors could pave the way for more fruitful engagement, and that the Canadian government should “impress upon the Chinese that we’re prepared to engage with them.”

However, the first priority is getting Kovrig and Spavor released and convincing China to mitigate the death sentence handed to convicted drug smuggler Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, Robertson added.

In the wake of McCallum’s resignation, Jim Nickel, deputy head of mission at the Embassy of Canada in Beijing, will represent the country in China as charge d’affaires effective immediately, Trudeau said.

READ MORE: McCallum’s comments ‘unhelpful’ in securing release of Canadians detained in China, Mendocino says

Canada’s strategy is being closely watched by Western allies such as Australia and the U.K., Robertson said, “because they could be in this same situation so that’s why they’re banding behind us.”

But he acknowledged that, ultimately, Canada is in the middle of a spat between two far more powerful players in the U.S. — which is seeking Meng’s extradition — and China.

“I don’t think much is going to happen until the China-U.S. relationship is sorted out and, of course, we’re through this extradition hearing with Meng Wanzhou,” Robertson said.

— With files from the Canadian Press

Michael Le Couteur: So, where does this leave the Canadians caught in the crossfire in China? Well joining me right now is a former diplomat, Colin Robertson. Thanks very much for joining us.

Colin Robertson: Good to be with you, Michael.

Michael Le Couteur: So I guess the first question is the message to the families now of these detained, how are they to feel right now?

Colin Robertson: Well it’s the same, we’re—the Canadian government has got their back and our representatives in China and headed now by our chargé, who are making every effort to defend their interests and particularly getting access to them to report on the conditions they’re in. That’s got to be the concern of the families is how are their husband, brothers, and sons?

Michael Le Couteur: But how do we now get that message back on track going forward with China? Because everything the Chinese have seen right now are two different messages: one from the prime minister and one from McCallum. How do we right this ship?

Colin Robertson: Well the emphasis, once again, I think as we heard this morning, the government is doubling down on the rules based approach, which is exactly right. Because for a country like Canada, we need rules, especially when you’re a middle power to be able to deal with big, that’s what levels the playing field. So the rules based institutions and the rules based approach, which is at the heart of this whole extradition affair, is what we talk about, but it’s also an opportunity to reset the relationship. We’ve now got an opportunity to put in a new ambassador. I think we should also be pushing for a new Chinese ambassador because some of the comments that he’s made about white supremacy is just off the reservation and I think we impress upon the Chinese that we want to have a new—restart the relationship, but we probably need new quarterbacks in the field because frankly, we don’t—the Chinese didn’t necessarily trust Mr. McCallum anymore, or did he have the confidence of the prime minister, and we don’t trust, I think, the Chinese ambassador. So I think it starts with that. The alternative might be something like special envoys which are better to have ambassadors who you can trust and work with.

Michael Le Couteur: But I mean resetting some of the players is a good plan, but so much of the game has already been played. How do we get anybody to forget the first three quarters of all of this?

Colin Robertson: Well they won’t, but you go in with a new ambassador and perhaps an ambassador here and they engage. I mean it’s all about engagement. We think about sending over a ministerial delegation. We impress upon the Chinese that we’re prepared to engage with them. But first and foremost, we’ve got to be getting the two Canadians that we are detained, we think unfairly, out of jail and some sort of mitigation on the sentence of Mr. Schellenberg, although that would be different and that’s on a separate track. And then you get into the economic relationship and then the sort of broader interests as well. And remember, other countries are going to be watching how we’re handling this because they could be in the same position. In the same way—in a certain way, the Chinese are—you know, there’s this Chinese expression, you know, you kill a chicken to scare the monkeys. Well there’s a whole lot of monkeys, which are the Chinese sort of say look how we’re treating Canada. And so they will—that’s why they’re banding behind us because that’s why you’re getting the Brits and the Australians and everyone else because they could be in our position as well.

Michael Le Couteur: How much more difficult will it be to smooth over relationships, especially with the Chinese? Because they are such a superpower, because of how traditional they are in relationships.

Colin Robertson: Well the Chinese have interests, too, and I think they would understand they have people into China have gone off the reservation and they deal with them in a more summary fashion than Mr. McCallum’s been dealt with. So this doesn’t normally happen, but this is extraordinary even for Canada, but is an opportunity, as I say, to reset. But I think you need some new players, two new ambassadors and then with a clear goal to get the relationship back on track. Now, I don’t think anything much is going to happen until the China-U.S. relationship is sorted out and of course we’re through this extradition hearing with Meng Wanzhou.

Michael Le Couteur: And just quickly, if you were to advise the prime minister what to do in the next couple days ahead. Does he have to call President Xi to go look, hey, sorry about all this, let’s reset?

Colin Robertson: No. I think that we’ve got a chargé who will deliver a message. Well, I think Chrystia Freeland could talk to her counterpart. He may well pick up the phone to talk to his counterpart, the premier. Not the president, because the Chinese aren’t—the president won’t take it, again, their very particular minded. And just sort of say—and I think deliver the message. Okay, we’re going to be appointing a new ambassador fairly soon, we’d like you to consider something as well because we think this important relationship should get back on track.

Michael Le Couteur: I appreciate your time. That’s all the time we have for you today, Colin Robertson. Thanks so much for joining us.

John McCallum’s political skills failed both him and Trudeau

The consequences of McCallum’s departure are serious and time sensitive

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulates former immigration minister John McCallum he made his final statement in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Jan. 31, 2017, before he took up his Beijing post. This week the prime minister fired McCallum. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

John McCallum got the job as Canada’s ambassador to China because of his political background. The clear signal to the Chinese was that the former cabinet minister could pick up the phone and speak directly to the prime minister.

In the end McCallum’s political skills failed both him and the man who sent him to Beijing.

His last call with the PM wasn’t initiated by him — it was Justin Trudeau firing him from the post.

Virtually every analyst says McCallum had to go for telling the media, not once but twice this week, that it would be better for Canada if Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou isn’t extradited to the United States.

One slip-up could be forgiven. The second could not.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who’s now vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said McCallum’s firing was unavoidable.

“In private discussions with the Chinese he might be able to say those things,” Robertson told CBC News on Sunday. “To say those things publicly is completely counter to what the prime minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland have been saying — that this is a judicial process based on the rule of law.”

McCallum’s comments suggested just the opposite, lending credence to what Chinese had insisted all along — Meng’s arrest was political.

It’s a devastating setback for Canadian diplomacy with China.

When Justin Trudeau first met President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Turkey back in November 2015, Xi made a point of praising his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, for what he called his “historic engagement” with China in 1970.

“China will always remember that,” Xi said.

Better left unsaid

In sending McCallum to China in 2017, Trudeau was choosing a long-time cabinet member who had overseen the process of re-settling nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees.

Yes, there were risks in appointing a politician who was never loath to speak his mind to the sensitive world of diplomacy where, as the American politician Lincoln Chafee once said, “some things are better left unsaid.” That just wasn’t McCallum’s style. He was a frequent guest on political talk shows. He was never one to duck a question. Unlike most diplomats, he never bought into the notion of talking without saying anything.

But whatever those risks, Trudeau wanted the value of appointing a highly visible cabinet minister to Beijing. In doing so he elevated China to a status that had been reserved, previously, for the most important and high-profile diplomatic posts in Washington, London and Paris.

Trudeau wanted closer ties with the world’s second-largest economy. McCallum’s job was to help make that happen.

McCallum leaves a federal cabinet meeting in Sherbrooke, Que., on Wednesday, Jan. 16. He was a frequent guest on political talk shows and was never one to duck a question. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

News reports of his appointment noted McCallum’s wife is Chinese. His old riding in Markham, Ont., is home to many people of Chinese descent.

“I need my top people to be out there engaging at the highest levels around the world,” Trudeau said at the time.

The marching order, as McCallum himself set it out, was more of everything: trade, investment, tourism, cultural ties.

Those gains really never fully materialized.

Canada did secure a tourism deal with China that made it easier for Chinese tourists to visit Canada.

But the desire to commence formal free trade talks fizzled, despite the prime minister’s own visit to China in December 2017. A year later, Meng’s arrest on behalf of the United States as she stepped off a flight in Vancouver sent relations spiralling to new lows.

Choosing the next ambassador will be a delicate process

The consequences of McCallum’s departure now are serious.

Two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, remain in custody in China, accused of endangering national security, both arrested shortly after Meng was detained in Canada.

A third Canadian, convicted in China of drug smuggling, had his 15-year jail term overturned and now faces a death sentence.

McCallum’s predecessor in Beijing, Guy Saint-Jacques, said finding the right person now to represent Canada is critical.

“In my view, this crisis is the worst we have seen with China since we established diplomatic relations back in 1970.”

And whoever Trudeau chooses, it has to be soon. The lives of those three detained Canadians are in the balance. A successful resolution to that crisis, and to the Meng extradition, is paramount.

Normalizing relations with a powerful nation such as China comes next. That job will include communicating to China what role, if any, Huawei will have in Canada’s 5G mobile network.

The question now is where Trudeau will turn for his next ambassador.

Saint-Jacques, for one, believes the next ambassador has to have a deep knowledge of China. Others add that McCallum’s successor needs to be fluent in Mandarin, which McCallum wasn’t, and should come from the senior ranks of the foreign service, rather than the front lines of the political world.

Still others say the next ambassador must continue to have the ear of the prime minister.

It all adds up to this. The next call between Trudeau and Canada’s ambassador to China will be initiated by the prime minister again. And it will be just as important as his last.

Trump, Canada and the global order

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With Mr. Trump cheering the way, nationalism and competition are dominant global trends. As with Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort, this President personifies and appeals to the darker forces. If two years of Mr. Trump have taught Canada and its allies anything, it is that he cannot be trusted and that we need to take a collective stand against his bullying.

Unfortunately, populism, protectionism and polarization will persist after his presidency. So will conflicting U.S. partisan priorities. Consistency in U.S. policy and bipartisan support for alliances and multilateralism no longer apply. Canada and its allies need to adapt.

As with Mr. Trump, Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia also see the world differently. They are building authoritarian systems based on state capitalism. Western hopes that they’d become “responsible stakeholders” were ill-founded. Instead, they are weaponizing cyberintrusion, surveillance and big data to ensure domestic stability. Now they are using these tools to subvert democracies.

Together with Mr. Trump, they share a contempt for the rules-based order. They’d rather see a concert of great powers, each exercising respective spheres of influence. Thucydides long ago described this school of international affairs: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

As the Huawei situation clearly shows, China is giving Canada a taste of what life will be like in this new order. This future would be a disaster for liberal democracies such as Canada.

Mr. Trump’s policy of “America First” leaves a vacuum that all constructive powers need to fill. No one country can do it alone, but working together, we can shore up the system. Even while multilateralism is taking a beating, recent global compacts on climate and migration and a raft of regional trade deals demonstrate its worth.

But multilateralism needs constant reinvigoration. This means repairing or reforming what is breaking down in the face of technological, climatic and demographic changes. We have to help those hurt by change.

Security must be the first priority. Our top general warns of great-power dynamics, especially Russia and China. All allies have to reinvest in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It’s time to expand our durable, collective-security alliance into the Indo-Pacific and the Arctic. Australia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand are already NATO partners. They should be full members.

Given the growing maritime challenges, Canada needs more investments in its navy: procuring the next generation of submarines with under-ice operability and a half-dozen “hospital” ships for rapid deployment to increasing numbers of natural and man-made disasters in coastal areas.

Securing our democratic institutions is also vital as we prepare for an election later this year. Our intelligence agencies warn that our electoral process is not immune to bad-actor interference. Are we ready to tackle bot-controlled disinformation?

Our second priority should be to shore up the global trading system that generates our prosperity. Mr. Trump has a point about its ineffective dispute-settlement process. The solution is to fix it as Canada and others will continue to do this week when they meet in Davos, Switzerland.

The third priority must be addressing climate change. Rather than fixate on carbon pricing, we need to collaborate – on global knowledge in battery storage, renewables, and efficiencies in building codes. Use COSIA – (Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance) with its commitment to sharing technological innovations that mitigate environmental damage – as a model.

As with Humpty Dumpty, the global operating system has had a great fall. Mr. Trump and his fellow travellers will eventually face an accounting, but, until then, we need to focus on fixing rather than blaming.

Canada and other constructive countries know that we all do better when we agree that rules are the principle upon which we base our order. They level the playing field and establish norms of behaviour. Multilateralism is worth fighting for.

Changing World Order

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CTV Powerplay: From Canada’s relationship with China, to the killing of a man in Burkina Faso, a panel of experts discusses the state of global affairs. with Hon. Peter MacKay, Samantha Nutt and Colin Robertson in conversation with Don Martin