About Colin Robertson

A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and hosts its regular Global Exchange podcast.  He is an Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.  Robertson sits on the advisory councils of  the Johnson-Shoyama School of Public PolicyNorth  American Research Partnership, the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa and the Conference of Defence Associations Institute  He is an Honorary Captain (Royal Canadian Navy) assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate.

During his foreign service career, he served as first Head of the Advocacy Secretariat and Minister at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and Consul General in Los Angeles as Consul in Hong Kong and in New York at the UN and Consulate General. A member of the teams that negotiated the Canada-US FTA and then the NAFTA, he is a member of the Deputy Minister of International Trade’s NAFTA Advisory Council and the North American Forum.  He writes on foreign affairs for  the Globe and Mail and he is a frequent contributor to other media. The Hill Times has named him as one of those that influence Canadian foreign policy, most recently in their 2018 ‘top forty’.

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

Comments Off on About Colin Robertson

G20 and Trudeau

11/30/2018 07:16

Justin Trudeau Urged By Ukrainian Officials To Speak Out Against Russia

Russia recently seized three Ukrainian vessels near Crimea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merkel to press Putin at G20

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

“Neither is likely to happen,” he wrote.

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

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

With files from Mike Blanchfield and The Associated Press

Comments Off on G20 and Trudeau

G20 Primer on Buenos Aries Summit


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

G20_Argentina_Header.JPG

Image credit: G20

PRIMER

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice-President and Fellow
November 2018

DOWNLOAD PDF


Table of Contents


Introduction

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

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

G20_1.jpg

TOP OF PAGE


Who and What is the G20?

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

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

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

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

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

G20_2.jpg

TOP OF PAGE


The G20’s Standing Agenda

The de facto standing agenda for the G20 includes:

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

G20 Trade-Restrictive Measures
(average per month)

G20_3.jpg

TOP OF PAGE


What Does the Buenos Aires Summit Want to Achieve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOP OF PAGE


What About Deliverables from Buenos Aires?

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

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

TOP OF PAGE


Canadian Objectives

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

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

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

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

Canada hosted the G20 in Toronto in 2010.

TOP OF PAGE


Do We Really Need a G20?

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

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

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

TOP OF PAGE


The Economic Picture

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

G20_4.jpg

G20_5.jpg

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

G20_6.jpg

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

G20_7.jpg

There are also the geopolitical risks.

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

G20_8.jpg

TOP OF PAGE


Further Reading

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

G20 Economies 1992 and 2017

G20_9.jpg

G20_10.jpg

TOP OF PAGE

Comments Off on G20 Primer on Buenos Aries Summit

G20 Trudeau and G8

11/30/2018 07:16 EST

Justin Trudeau Urged By Ukrainian Officials To Speak Out Against Russia

Russia recently seized three Ukrainian vessels near Crimea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merkel to press Putin at G20

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

“Neither is likely to happen,” he wrote.

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

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

With files from Mike Blanchfield and The Associated Press

Comments Off on G20 Trudeau and G8

G20 Buenos Aries and USMCA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mr. Trump is a disruptive force.”

U.S.-China trade tensions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoiding MBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments Off on G20 Buenos Aries and USMCA

Is Canada Back?

Canada is somewhat back: The marginalization of federal foreign policy

By Steve Zhang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments Off on Is Canada Back?

Canada in Latin America

Canada’s Latin American trade complications

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

Comments Off on Canada in Latin America

Canada and its Trade Deals

Comments Off on Canada and its Trade Deals

NAFTA and Dairy

Eureka! At last, we have a renegotiated NAFTA

Free Market Reflections with Steve Dittmer

While it seems like forever to us, these kinds of diplomatic trade battles usually take several years to settle, not just a little over a year. Of course, President Trump wasn’t around before now, pushing people’s buttons and impatiently demanding results like a business tycoon.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a major point that the agreement meant economic stability and certainty for Canadian businesses and investors. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had held her ground all along, reminding folks she was after a good deal for Canada.

And she got her most important priority — keeping the dispute resolution procedures in place — and next, getting what is effectively an exemption on any upcoming 25 per cent auto tariffs, getting 2.6 million units duty free, compared to the 1.6 million currently exported.

From a distance, it is hard to say how much damage the dairy sector will have to absorb. I know some folks will say 3.59 per cent is not a big deal but when an industry is fundamentally oversupplied, even a couple per cent is significant. We learned that lesson years ago in the beef industry. The market is much more sensitive when the supply is close to the edge than when demand is out ahead of supply. Apparently, the supply management and subsidies were left intact, so the government will have an easier time figuring out how to compensate producers for their losses.

That supply management and subsidy “problem” is left to another day, likely another government. Your beef industry is much closer to a free market system and so the government control and subsidy for dairymen is a bit foreign to cattlemen. But I ran across an opinion piece from a Canadian before the final agreement that some livestock folks may think still applies.

Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, noted Trudeau’s political problem in executing a dairy deal right before a Quebec election October 1. (Of course, other issues had already determined that election outcome, it’s just no one knew that for sure before October 1.) Robertson told Politico that there were some cracks in the Quebec supply management defense. Some favour the end of supply management and he concurs with the opinion that “Canadian cheese can be world busters” and Canadian dairymen can be competitive with the Aussies and Kiwis. He thinks the adjustment assistance necessary during a transition is “affordable” and that dairy can be just as successful as Canadian “beef, pork, grains and lentils.”

“Mr. Trump may force us to do what we should do,” Robertson concluded.

Now, Canadians will have to decide what, if anything, they want to do and find a new bad guy to force it.

I think your Minister Freeland did a very good job, holding her dispute resolution position, beating back the sunset clause with a pretty clever device and protecting Canada from a 25 per cent auto tariff. Given her toughness and the backing she has apparently gotten from Trudeau, I would guess she will get a good deal on the steel and aluminum tariffs very soon, probably a quota with some headroom.

After all, it is not easy negotiating with the trading partner you sell 75 per cent of your exports to. Especially when that partner realizes its advantage, pushes it and has a booming economy and substantial hubris behind its approach.

ADVERTISEMENT

One thing I have learned from my conversations with Canadian friends and trips to your meetings: the fundamental attitude is totally different in an exporting nation versus one dominated by its domestic market. It has been your advantage to have producers who instinctively cut right to the customer’s thinking when structuring their whole industry, versus the American cattlemen’s attitude for many past years that we’ll produce what we want to produce and the domestic market will always be there.

It has also been pointed out that the strengthening of the auto manufacturing model, to require 75 per cent of the content to be made in North America to be duty free and that 40 per cent of it be made by workers making at least $16/hour, helps Canada as well, as some of its auto and parts manufacturing has been lost to Mexico over the years.

Canadians feel President Trump has been too hard on Canada during these negotiations and I can’t blame them. But, when you are trying to tackle the brute running back (China), some other guys are going to get bumped along the way. But deep down, businessmen in both countries are aware of how integrated our businesses and economies are. That kind of pressure undoubtedly played a part in getting this thing done, especially with our mid-term elections so soon.

Oh, I see Canada has been busy with the process of ratifying the TPP agreement— you know, the one without the U.S. in it. Go figure.

Oh, Canada!

Comments Off on NAFTA and Dairy

USMCA and Congress

Manitoba Pork Council

Farm-Scape is sponsored by
Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork

FarmScape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council
and Sask Pork.

The Canadian Global Affairs Institute suggests the United States remains the biggest unknown as Canada, the US and Mexico move toward ratification and implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the modernised version of NAFTA, is expected to be signed 30 November, at which point the deal will still require passage of legislation in all three countries for its ratification.

Colin Robertson, Vice President and a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says the agreement won’t be a done deal until it gets through the US Congress.

Mr Robertson says, “My sense is that the earliest the Americans will be in a position to bring forward their legislation will be probably February, March or April and we’ll be dealing with a different Congress.

“There are mid-term elections set for 6 November and that’s for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and for one third of the 100 member Senate.”

Mr Robertson says that this could result in a different configuration within both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

He says that the Republicans currently have a majority in the House of Representatives and very slim majority in the Senate and it’s an open question as to what will be the results of the election.

He says, “The pundits currently seem to think the Democrats have a fair chance of taking the majority in the House of Representatives but the Senate is still, as they would say in basketball, jump ball so we’re not sure what will happen there.

“That will have implications for the ultimate passage of legislation in the US Congress because, for the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement to take effect, legislation would have to be passed in the three parliaments.”

Mr Robertson notes, in the case of Canada and Mexico, both leaders have majorities so he doesn’t anticipate any problems with passage of the legislation to ratify the agreement in Canada or Mexico.

 

As reported by Bruce Cochrane, Farmscape.Ca

Comments Off on USMCA and Congress

China Card

So now, in the wake of the USMCA, China wants a trade deal with Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says our country is ready. Improving trade ties with China would go a long way to trade diversification but Canadians should tread carefully.

More engagement with the world’s second biggest economy that is growing at twice the rate of our U.S. and EU partners makes a lot of sense. Economics aside, we have expanding people-to-people ties: the Chinese are our largest group of foreign students; Chinese tourism is up by double digits; and 10 per cent of recent immigrants came from China.

So the question is not about whether to engage, but how best to engage.

Negotiating a full free-trade agreement, says the Public Policy Forum’s useful report, Diversification not Dependence, could take a decade. Last December, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang rejected Prime Minister Trudeau’s overture on a closer economic partnership, dismissing out of hand the gender and aboriginal rights integral to Mr. Trudeau’s progressive trade agenda. The Chinese aren’t open to change, so have we decided to drop the progressive agenda?

The PPF says sectoral agreements are the way to go, starting with agri-food and natural resources, eldercare and pensions coupled with co-operative arrangements on things such as climate. These will build confidence and create momentum for more progress.

This could work although, like the rest of Asia, the Chinese are increasingly skeptical about Canada’s ability to get its goods to market. One new LNG pipeline is not enough.

The Chinese will demand preferred investment access for their state-owned enterprises (SOEs). They feel that the current regime, imposed by the Harper government in 2012, is unfair. Are we prepared to relax our rules?

There is a third option – encourage China to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). It already covers things such as SOEs, labour and environmental standards, intellectual property rights, and includes enforceable dispute settlement. The CPTPP should become the benchmark pact for the Indo-Pacific. China’s own model – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – does not meet the CPTPP standard.

But all of this may come to naught. Like it or not, Canada is now caught in the Sino-U.S. confrontation, of which the USMCA “China clause” is the latest manifestation. While we are nowhere near negotiations with China, consulting with our principal trade partners would seem sensible.

The sense that Chinese behaviour is predatory and posing significant threats to the U.S. that need to be countered is driving current U.S. policy. The Donald Trump approach – threats, bombast and tariffs – is antagonizing China and prompting retaliation. We will need to be careful that we don’t become collateral damage.

China’s leadership wants to reform global governance to reflect China’s superpower stature. But China only pays lip service to the rules-based international order. Its mercantilist behaviour, ranging from subsidized to forced technology transfers, has contributed mightily to the looming Sino-U.S. trade war. Its cyberintrusions – for espionage and commercial gain – are detailed in our intelligence agencies’ annual reporting. While the Trump administration’s method is obnoxious, the EU, Japan and North America need to defend our rules-based system.

China has not developed politically, economically or diplomatically in ways that the West had thought it might. But projecting hopes and wishful thinking on China goes further back than this current moment. In his latest book, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan describes U.S. General George Marshall’s unsuccessful efforts to steer China toward liberal democracy in the aftermath of the Second World War. The China Mission is a must-read for foreign-policy makers practising diplomacy in Asia.

The Prime Minister meets the premiers this fall to talk trade diversification. Thrashing through a China strategy is essential. What is it we really want? What are we prepared to give up?

We need to engage in continued relationship building through ministerial visits and through the kind of Track Two discussions organized by the University of Alberta’s China Institute.

It would help if the federal Conservatives are part of the consensus. No one expects lock-step agreement, but a general alignment on our objectives – as we witnessed during the USMCA negotiations – serves the national interest. It also ensures continuity when governments change.

Beyond the obvious trade benefits, better relations with China make sense for Canada. But decisions on China should only be made after we have done our homework and with our eyes wide open.

Comments Off on China Card