About Colin Robertson

A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is a Senior Advisor to Dentons LLP living in Ottawa, Canada and working with the Business Council of Canada. He is Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. He is chair of the board of Canada World Youth. He is a member of the board of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the advisory board of the North  American Research Partnership. He is a past president of the National Capital Branch of the Canadian International Council. He is an Honorary Captain (Royal Canadian Navy) assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate. He writes a column every two weeks on foreign affairs for  the Globe and Mail and he is a regular contributor to other media.

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

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NAFTA and Trump

Reality check: Canada has ‘no appetite to scrap trade,’ despite NAFTA poll

The Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich., is the busiest international border crossing in North America, handling 25 per cent of all merchandise trade between Canada and the U.S.

Jason Kryk / The Windsor Star filesThe Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich., is the busiest international border crossing in North America, handling 25 per cent of all merchandise trade between Canada and the U.S.OTTAWA — With Brexit and growing U.S. protectionism as a backdrop, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, standing next to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, warned Tuesday that “turning inwards” will come “at the cost of economic growth.”

But as headlines indicated this week, only one in four Canadians thinks the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is good for the country, according to the Angus Reid Institute.

It’s a “stunning rejection” of the “free-trade agenda,” the Council of Canadians proclaimed Tuesday. But others question whether policymakers and politicians have managed to communicate the benefits of integration.

How do we really feel?

NAFTA came into effect in 1994, replacing the 1987 Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement.About 10 years on, a 2003 Ipsos Reid survey found 70 per cent of Canadians supported the deal.

But 22 years later, half of Canadians were neutral or unsure. A quarter think it’s bad, but another quarter think it’s good.

There is no appetite to scrap trade. Canada … has morphed into a pro-trade country.

Though 34 per cent said the deal should be “renegotiated,” 24 per cent said it should be “strengthened and expanded.” More people would leave it as it is (11 per cent) than would kill it (nine per cent).

Nearly a quarter don’t know how they feel. Roughly the same proportion were found in U.K. polls to be unsure about leaving the European Union, three months before last week’s referendum.

“There is no appetite to scrap trade,” said pollster Shachi Kurl. “Canada … has morphed into a pro-trade country.” Polls last year found 57 per cent of Canadians saw international trade as the No. 1 foreign policy priority.

Laura Dawson, director of the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute, said NAFTA is a “bad brand,” but people still support exports and foreign investment.

But what has NAFTA actually done?

Canada and Mexico both do far more trade with the U.S. than with each other.

The U.S. sees a modest, but positive, impact from NAFTA, most think-tanks agree. Some debate whether the deal has stymied Mexico’s growth. Canada is generally seen as a winner.

A special report from BMO Capital Markets last week shows Canada’s total trade within NAFTA went from $239 billion in 1994 to $567 billion in 2015. Concurrently, unemployment went from 10.4 per cent to 6.9 per cent.

The Council of Canadians blames NAFTA for the loss of about half a million jobs. But the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations estimates job gains in Canada at 4.7 million since NAFTA’s entrance.

Free trade is an easy but unfair target when job losses hit, explained Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Manufacturing-heavy Ontario and British Columbia were indeed the only provinces to show more negative than positive reactions to NAFTA in the recent poll, Kurl noted.

In 2014, the Canada-based Centre for International Governance Innovation concluded that although NAFTA could be “significantly improved,” it exceeded trade and investment expectations.

The Canadian Press files

The Canadian Press filesIn April 2015, a yard in Gascoyne, N.D., stored hundreds of kilometres of pipe that was supposed to go into the Keystone XL pipeline. it hasn’t and TransCanada Corp. is seeking more than $15 billion compensation under the North American Free Trade Agreement following the U.S. government’s rejection of the proposed pipeline.

What does the future look like?

Enter Donald Trump. The presumptive Republican presidential candidate called NAFTA “the worst trade deal in the history of this country” Tuesday, promising either to withdraw or renegotiate it.

A recent Bloomberg poll found 44 per cent of Americans see the deal as bad for their economy.

Casting another shadow, TransCanada Corp. launched a $15-billion lawsuit against the U.S. government under NAFTA rules Friday for rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.

Though Dawson said Canada would still be among trade allies under a Trump presidency, renegotiating NAFTA could open Pandora’s box — and “a lot of things go flying out.”

Still, she said, Trudeau, Pena Nieto and outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama will take pains Wednesday to quell fears and assert existing trade relationships are “not going anywhere.”

Mexico Canada: Visa and Beef

Beef industry celebrates ‘symbolic’ re-opening of Mexican market

Normalization of trade in Canada’s 3rd-largest beef export market a ‘high priority’

By Janyce McGregor, CBC News Posted: Jun 28, 2016 3:28 PM ETLast Updated: Jun 28, 2016 3:28 PM ET

The North American beef industry soon will be fully integrated once again, following Tuesday's announcement that Mexico will lift its remaining restrictions on Canadian beef imports Oct. 1.

The North American beef industry soon will be fully integrated once again, following Tuesday’s announcement that Mexico will lift its remaining restrictions on Canadian beef imports Oct. 1. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Mexico will fully re-open its market to Canadian beef imports on Oct. 1, offering Canada’s farmers valuable new customers for their mature cattle this fall.

The resumption of full trade in beef was part of a suite of announcements as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held bilateral talks with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Parliament Hill Tuesday.

Canada announced it will lift its visa rules for Mexican travellers on Dec.1, removing another longstanding irritant between the two countries.

Mexico was among dozens of countries that suspended beef trade with Canada after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was detected in 2003.

While imports of some products later resumed, live cattle and meat from animals over 30 months of age (referred to as OTM products) were still restricted, cutting off trade in ground beef and other specialty meats.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says that normalized trade with Mexico marks the removal of one of Canada’s few remaining BSE-related restrictions: only China, Taiwan and Indonesia continue to block certain Canadian beef products.

Fall change timely

CCA president Dan Darling said the reopening gives Canadian farmers the confidence they need to expand their herds in the future.

“When our production increases to previous levels, I believe that Mexico could again import more than $250 million per year, like it used to,” he said in a statement. Between one-quarter and one-fifth of that used to be OTM beef.

The Oct. 1 effective date is timely.

“The months of October and November are traditionally the time of year when Canadian beef farmers send most of their mature breeding cows to market,” Darling said.

Even with the limited access, Canadian beef exports to Mexico have averaged over $130 million annually for the last five years, according to the Canadian Meat Council.

Mexico is seen as a growing market, with expanding middle-class appetites for beef that exceed domestic production.

“The full normalization of trade in beef products with Mexico has been a high priority,” said Canadian Meat Council President Joe Reda.

Signal to other new markets

Mexico is considered a high-value market for certain beef products that don’t sell as well elsewhere.

In a release, the council estimated incremental sales worth $10 million annually from Tuesday’s announcement. (Incremental sales value results when a new export market is prepared to pay more than current customers for the same products.)

But beef producers are also celebrating the signal this market restoration sends to other potential customers, as the North American industry becomes fully integrated once more.

“The concession by Mexico on beef is really symbolic,” former diplomat Colin Robertson told CBC News. 

“We’re very anxious to get into other markets — the United Kingdom as well as Asia — and having a clean bill of health from the Mexicans was something that was holding us back a little bit when we were trying to sell into places like Korea, China, Japan and Europe.”

Carlo Dade from the Canada West Foundation called the announcement great news, especially for Western Canada.

But he noted “a huge disconnect” in the fact that many Albertans supported keeping the visa restrictions against Mexico despite its industry benefiting from the beef deal.

“What happened with beef and the visas is an object lesson that will be completely lost on the people of Alberta,” he said.

Three Amigos Summit

In Canada, Mexican President calls for ‘economic integration’ of North America

Robert Fife – Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Jun. 27, 2016 11:39AM EDT

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto arrived in Canada Monday for an official state visit, using his first remarks to call for the “economic integration” of North America.

Governor-General David Johnston welcomed the Mexican leader at the historic Citadelle in Quebec City as Mr. Nieto begins two days of bilateral talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the premiers of Quebec and Ontario as well as business leaders in advance of Wednesday’s summit of the North American leaders that will include U.S. President Barack Obama.

“Canadians and Mexicans alike share values and development goals and we also share a single vision of the world we want,” Mr. Nieto said. “Let us take stock of our affinity and agreement to bolster innovation and environmental sustainability and also to foster the economic integration of North America.”

During their bilateral talks, officials say Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Nieto will remind North Americans “how lucky we are to be where we are … and we are a lot more successful when we tackle shared problems together rather than put up walls.”

The three leaders of North America will trumpet the benefits of liberalized free trade and the necessity of countries to work in unison when they gather in Ottawa for a summit that had been set up largely to focus on the environment but has been turned upside down by the stunning British vote to exit the European Union.

But the shocking British vote to secede from the EU has forced the leaders to reassess the game plan and put a greater emphasis on free trade when they gather for the one-day summit to be held at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

“These three leaders are aligned in believing we need trade relations and we are very lucky to have a continental approach,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in an interview. “When you look at the North American market, it is a very significant market. It is a great message to the world that we are working together and we believe in trade.”

Mr. Trudeau will also rescind visa restrictions on Mexican travellers, a major irritant since 2009, when they were imposed by the former Conservative government to curb the flow of bogus refugees.

“We are a progressive government. The visas are being lifted. That is a campaign commitment to Mexicans,” Ms. McKenna said.

Sources say the two leaders will sign agreements on educational exchanges, and share “best practices” on ending the social isolation and exploitation of indigenous people in both countries. Canada will also offer intelligence and training to combat Mexico’s drug violence.

However, Canadian and Mexican officials say the real aim of the discussions is to set up a partnership to combat what both leaders see as rising protectionist sentiment in the U.S., their biggest trading partner.

A Mexican official noted that both countries teamed up to fight U.S. action, through the World Trade Organization, on country-of-origin labelling for meat products, as well as an attempt by the United States during the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to allow Japanese vehicles to be imported tariff-free to North America, with just 30-per-cent content. Canada and Mexico forced the cap up to 45 per cent. It is currently 62.5 per cent.

“The protectionist fires are starting to blow, whether we are talking about Hillary Clinton and her opposition to TPP or Donald Trump, who is anti-everything and wants to build a wall between Mexico. We are going to need allies to try and fend off these protectionist winds,” Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said in an interview. “Working with Mexico on country of origin and the TPP, we were able to push back – but especially on country of origin, which is basically a protectionist measure. By both threatening retaliatory action, Congress folded. On our own, we would not have been successful.”

About 40 per cent of what the United States buys from Mexico starts out in the United States, while 25 per cent of what Americans buy from Canada comes from the United States.

Measures to tackle climate change, including a commitment from Mexico to join Canada and the United States to reduce methane gases by 40 per cent, will be announced on Wednesday, as well as harmonization of environmental regulations.

“Canada and Mexico will sign a memorandum of understanding to work together on sharing information on how to foster native languages, protect indigenous art and help women facing domestic and street violence, as well as look at ways to engage indigenous people as partners in resource development.

Three Amigos Meet

Three Amigos expected to make some real deals on energy, tout North American trade

Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen and Marie-Danielle Smith | June 27, 2016 9:48 PM ET

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila in November.

Susan Walsh/The Canadian PressMexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila in November.
OTTAWA — Get ready for hard commitments on clean energy and a soft sell on North American trade.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosts Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on a state visit this week, before U.S. President Barack Obama joins them for the Three Amigos summit on Wednesday. Climate change will figure prominently, but so will the importance of all three countries working together economically.

Here’s what to expect:

Climate change and clean energy

Eric Feferber / AFP, Getty Images

Eric Feferber / AFP, Getty Images President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the plenary session at the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, on November 30, 2015.

In his last year in the White House, Obama has been pushing for real action on climate change.The three leaders will follow that up by committing to increase the amount of clean energy produced in North America from 37 per cent today to 50 per cent in 2025. The ambitious goal, revealed by the White House, includes producing more energy by renewables, nuclear and carbon capture technologies.

The commitment will form the foundation of a comprehensive North American clean energy action plan, said Obama’s senior adviser, Brian Deese. “We believe this is an aggressive goal, but for all three countries, one that we believe is achievable continent-wide.”

Liberal officials say growing the share of clean energy produced across North America goes hand-in-hand with advancing closer economic integration. “It’s about sustainable jobs and sustainable growth,” said one official.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the three leaders will also talk about ways to integrate alternatives into continental energy grids and harmonize energy efficiency standards to make it easier for the clean energy sector to grow.

North American trade

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Joe Raedle / Getty ImagesFree-trade along the Canada-U.S. border could come up at the so-called “Three Amigos” summit.

Pena Nieto, meanwhile, began his visit to Canada in Quebec City on Monday, where he called for greater economic integration. Liberal sources say it’s a message that has taken on added importance amid NAFTA-bashing in the U.S. presidential race, and after last week’s Brexit vote.

“The rhetoric will only get hotter south of the border,” said one Liberal official. “And (Brexit) hit home for us that protectionist sentiments exist everywhere and have to be confronted.”

A poll by the Angus Reid Institute found about one quarter of Canadians felt the North American free trade deal was good for the country, and an equal number thought it was bad. However, the same number said they didn’t know. Officials say it’s those people the government plans to talk to over the coming days.

“I think it’s the same message you saw around immigration and welcoming Syrian refugees,” said another Liberal official. “That we’re stronger together than apart.”

Former Canadian ambassador to Washington Michael Kergin said the message of economic co-operation will be directed not just at North Americans, but also Europeans, in hopes of easing “cynicism” and “anxieties” about the concept of regional unity.

Nevertheless, all three North American leaders are going to have to be careful about how they broadcast their message to make sure they don’t stir up the type of anti-free trade sentiments they are trying to fight, said Carlo Dade, an expert on North American trade and investment at the Canada West Foundation.

Trade disputes

Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Peter J. Thompson/National PostTrade rules for lumber remain a major U.S.-Canadian conflict.

The three leaders will be all smiles when talking trade, but some disputes have been bubbling beneath the surface. The main concerns for Canada are the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S., and Mexico’s continued ban on some Canadian beef.

The beef ban goes back to 2003, when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in Canadian cattle, and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association estimates it will cost Canada about $10 million this year. Officials, however, have indicated a deal will be announced during Pena Nieto’s visit.

A solution to the softwood lumber dispute is less likely. At stake is billions of dollars for Canada’s softwood lumber industry, and Canadian officials are terrified it could become an election issue down south.

Of the softwood lumber dispute, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, now vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said: “In the past this has been a real friction point for Canada and the U.S. This is one you would prefer to put behind us.”

Mexican visas

The Liberals will start to make good on their election promise to lift visa requirements for Mexican travellers. Officials warn, however, that the visas won’t automatically disappear. Rather, Trudeau will announce an “ambitious” schedule for having them removed in the coming weeks.

The Harper government introduced the visa requirement in 2009, after thousands of Mexicans flooded Canada’s refugee system. While the Conservatives said it was necessary to keep out “bogus” refugees, it quickly became a barrier to relations between Canada and Mexico.

Reinstating visa-free travel will remove that barrier, but officials say they will be watching closely to see whether there is a spike in refugee claims from Mexico.

U.S. election and human rights

Trudeau and Pena Nieto are expected to pick Obama’s brain about the upcoming U.S. presidential election, with an eye toward dealing with President Clinton or President Trump. Clinton previously served as Obama’s secretary of state.

Meanwhile, Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said refugees from Central American countries are regularly persecuted in Mexico and it’s “unconscionable” for leaders to talk about free-flowing borders without addressing this “dramatic human rights crisis.”

Three Amigos Summit

Three Amigos, three tests for Trudeau

The Globe and Mail Jun. 26, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces three tests during this week’s North American Leaders’ Summit. The first is to reset the relationship with Mexico. The second is to sustain with U.S. President Barack Obama the positive momentum of the recent Washington summit. The third, a challenge for all three leaders, is to demonstrate anew, post-Brexit vote, their collective commitment to continental economic integration.

Resetting the Mexican relationship is overdue. It will start when – as repeatedly promised during last year’s federal election campaign, in the mandate letters to cabinet ministers and in his initial meeting at the G20 with President Enrique Pena Nieto – Mr. Trudeau lifts visa restrictions for Mexicans visiting Canada.

Official relations have been in the doldrums since the Harper government imposed a visa in July, 2009. Mexicans had become our top refugee claimants. The visa stopped the claimants, although much of the problem was our own laxness, since remedied in subsequent legislation.

Canadian trade and investment in Mexico is under-appreciated. Mexico is our third-largest market with real potential for further growth. It’s our most popular tourist destination after the United States. But imposing the visa made the flow a one-way street, significantly curbing Mexican investment, tourism and study in Canada.

Once the visa is lifted, the Mexicans are keen to expand the relationship – including climate and energy, trade and investment, and people-to-people connections.

On the cultural front, Mr. Pena Nieto’s visit coincides, by intent, with an exhibition of the celebrated Mexican modernist painter Rufino Tamayo at the National Gallery of Canada.

We should reciprocate with a similar exhibition and link it to another in the successful series of innovation missions led by Governor-General David Johnston. We should also use such visits to increase by tenfold the number of exchange students studying in our two countries.

We worked closely and successfully with Mexico in persuading the U.S. to lift its iniquitous country-of-origin-labelling requirements on our beef and cattle trade. By standing together, we have a much better chance of rebuffing the protectionist headwinds generated in the current U.S. election campaign.

As a first step, our ambassadors and consuls in the U.S. should meet regularly to share their playbooks and to co-ordinate messaging about the value of North American economic integration. Few Americans appreciate that 25 per cent of what they buy from Canada and 40 per cent of what they purchase from Mexico was made in the United States.

Mr. Trudeau’s second test is to further consolidate with Mr. Obama measures to advance regulatory co-operation and to ease border congestion for people and goods. Much of this can have trilateral application. We both need to deliver on our respective legislation enabling pre-clearance for those travelling from Billy Bishop and Jean Lesage airports and by rail from Montreal and Vancouver, and to share no-fly lists.

Mr. Obama needs to give a final nudge – an executive order would be nice – to departments and agencies to fully implement the spirit of “cleared once, accepted twice” on goods entering our shared perimeter.

Significant differences” continue to divide Canadian and American negotiators on softwood lumber. A recent update by International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman effectively punts the Freddy Krueger of trade irritants down the road. The Trudeau government must avoid letting softwood lumber become the drag and focus of the relationship that the Keystone XL pipeline permit became for the Harper government.

Leaving the file with the USTR, probably the most Canada-unfriendly of U.S. agencies, is a recipe for litigation and confiscatory levies. Here again, Mr. Obama could give a helping push from the White House (as did George W. Bush in reaching the 2006 accord).

The third test for leaders Obama, Pena Nieto and Trudeau is to renew their nations’ commitment to closer economic and environmental integration.

The trilateral work of our Foreign, Energy and Trade ministers will be reinforced and advanced by the leaders. We can and should be beacons against the increasingly dark forces of xenophobia and protectionism of which Brexit is the most conspicuous manifestation. Ottawa promises to be a “green” summit – building, in continental fashion, on the achievements of the Paris climate accord.

We make things together, increasingly, in a sustainable fashion. This is the North American competitive advantage: energy independence and abundant resources; a lead in research and development; and, if we would only lift the mobility constraints, a talented labour pool.

North American integration demonstrates a different model from that of Europe. It is less centralized and less bureaucratic. It works for each of us, reinforcing rather than undermining our respective sovereignties. It’s a message that our leaders need to communicate at home and abroad, loudly and clearly, again and again.

A Primer to the North American Leaders’ Summit (NALS)

A_Primer_to_the_North_American_Leaders_Montages.jpg

Image: SUSAN WALSH / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice-President and Fellow

June, 2016

DOWNLOAD PDF


Table of Contents

Preparing for Three Amigos Summit

Brexit prompts new agenda for North American Leaders’ Summit

Robert Fife – OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF

The Globe and Mail

Published Sunday, Jun. 26, 2016 9:24PM

The three leaders of North America will trumpet the benefits of liberalized free trade and the necessity of countries to work in unison when they gather in Ottawa for a summit that had been set up largely to focus on the environment but has been turned upside down by the stunning British vote to exit the European Union.

Senior Canadian and Mexican officials told The Globe and Mail last week that there would be little focus on free trade at the summit to avoid causing any political damage to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, who is battling anti-free trade Republican contender Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election.

But the shocking British vote to secede from the EU has forced the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico to reassess the game plan for Wednesday’s North American Leaders’ Summit, to be held at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, officials say.

“Obviously it is going to be a much bigger issue than had there been a Remain vote,” a senior Canadian official said on Sunday. “All three leaders, who have spoken on the phone, are all keen to express the sentiment that there is a part of the world that believes in openness and trade, and free exchange of people and goods.”

Officials say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who arrives in Canada on Monday for a state visit, will remind North Americans “how lucky we are to be where we are … and we are a lot more successful when we tackle shared problems together rather than put up walls.”

When the summit gets under way on Wednesday with the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said, the world will hear a strong message about the advantages of free trade.

“These three leaders are aligned in believing we need trade relations and we are very lucky to have a continental approach,” Ms. McKenna said in an interview. “When you look at the North American market, it is a very significant market. It is a great message to the world that we are working together and we believe in trade.”

When Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Pena Nieto meet over the next two days, sources say their focus will be on forging a new partnership to act as a counterweight against rising U.S. protectionism.

The Mexican leader arrives in Quebec City, where he will be greeted by Governor-General David Johnston. He later flies to Toronto to speak to a business group and dine with Mr. Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Mr. Trudeau will also rescind visa restrictions on Mexican travellers, a major irritant since 2009, when they were imposed by the former Conservative government to curb the flow of bogus refugees.

“We are a progressive government. The visas are being lifted. That is a campaign commitment to Mexicans,” Ms. McKenna said.

Sources say the two leaders will sign agreements on educational exchanges, and share “best practices” on ending the social isolation and exploitation of indigenous people in both countries. Canada will also offer intelligence and training to combat Mexico’s drug violence.

“We are going to have a wide-ranging discussion on security, and for Mexico, it truly has very significant security issues,” a Canadian official said. “We have world-class talent on that part on all of our institutions, from the RCMP, CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligent Service] and CSE [Communications Security Establishment]. We have world-class assets that countries like Mexico could really learn from.”

However, Canadian and Mexican officials say the real aim of the discussions is to set up a partnership to combat what both leaders see as rising protectionist sentiment in the U.S., their biggest trading partner.

A Mexican official noted that both countries teamed up to fight U.S. action, through the World Trade Organization, on country-of-origin labelling for meat products, as well as an attempt by the United States during the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to allow Japanese vehicles to be imported tariff-free to North America, with just 30-per-cent content. Canada and Mexico forced the cap up to 45 per cent. It is currently 62.5 per cent.

“The protectionist fires are starting to blow, whether we are talking about Hillary Clinton and her opposition to TPP or Donald Trump, who is anti-everything and wants to build a wall between Mexico. We are going to need allies to try and fend off these protectionist winds,” Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said in an interview. “Working with Mexico on country of origin and the TPP, we were able to push back – but especially on country of origin, which is basically a protectionist measure. By both threatening retaliatory action, Congress folded. On our own, we would not have been successful.”

About 40 per cent of what the United States buys from Mexico starts out in the United States, while 25 per cent of what Americans buy from Canada comes from the United States.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney said on Friday that continental free trade created almost five million jobs in Canada and doubled the country’s GDP to $1.8-trillion since 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect.

Measures to tackle climate change, including a commitment from Mexico to join Canada and the United States to reduce methane gases by 40 per cent, will be announced on Wednesday, as well as harmonization of environmental regulations.

“This is a real opportunity – it doesn’t come that often where you have governments who are extremely aligned on a clean-energy, clean-growth strategy,” Ms. McKenna said. “There is an economic opportunity when we have standards that are similar, so when it comes to vehicles and trucks, there are things we can do there.”

Canada and Mexico will sign a memorandum of understanding to work together on sharing information on how to foster native languages, protect indigenous art and help women facing domestic and street violence, as well as look at ways to engage indigenous people as partners in resource development.

Public Diplomacy and Canada’s Foreign Service

Diplomats feel as though they are emerging from a decade of darkness

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Jun. 07, 201

Canada’s top diplomats are in Ottawa this week for a pep talk about the country’s place in the world and what they can do to advance our interests and values.

Once the best in the world, Canada’s foreign service endured a difficult decade of cuts and contempt under a Harper government that perceived it as whiny, leaky, barely competent and untrustworthy.

With its renewed emphasis on economic diplomacy, the Harper government told diplomats to “take off your tweed jacket, buy a business suit and land us a deal.” The objective was sound, but the tone was insulting.

Mr. Harper’s government also oversaw the sale of official residences, some of them given to our country as reparations for Canadian sacrifice and valour during the Second World War. These historic and iconic residences were the best platforms to promote our trade and diplomatic objectives. It was all lost on the Harperites, however, who perceived them as grand living.

In short, the relationship between the foreign service and the Harper government was one of mutual contempt.

Now, with that decade of darkness behind us, we need a compendium of best practices – our own and those of other nations’ – to encourage traditionalists to think out-of-the-box. Canada’s diplomats need to change their mindset from that of compliance in just carrying out government orders to one of policy innovation and public diplomacy.

One of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first initiatives was to write to every head of mission, abolishing the strict controls imposed by the Harper government. Mr. Trudeau said he would rely on our diplomats’ “judgment, insights, discretion, and work ethic.” He underlined their critical role in advancing a new era of Canadian international engagement “through direct contact, the media, and social media.”

Given his rapid immersion in international summitry, it was a smart move on the part of Mr. Trudeau and it has paid off.

Mr. Trudeau’s personal grasp of the zeitgeist accounts for much of his subsequent success on the multilateral circuit – G20, Commonwealth, APEC, Paris climate change conference, Davos, UN, G8 – and during his recent bilateral meetings in Tokyo and Washington. But having our diplomats enthusiastically advance, deliver and then follow up is critical in the continuing demonstration that “Canada is back.”

Canadian re-engagement will hinge on the embrace of public diplomacy. It will oblige our diplomatic missions to fully utilize the sophisticated 500-plus social media channels they operate in over 20 languages. In Tunisia, for example, our embassy flew the LGBT flag (a first for any embassy in the Arab world) and used its French and English Facebook pages to promote the end of the criminalization of homosexuality.

The heads of missions should leave their meetings this week with a clear idea of their role and what they are expected to deliver. Delivering on the commitments in the mandate letters is the Trudeau government’s self-imposed barometer for success. Key questions that need to be answered include:

How do we protect our interests against rising nativism and protectionism, not just the “Trumpism” in the U.S., but elsewhere, too?
What are the specific measures Canada should take to become an international leader in combatting climate change?
What is “peaceful pluralism” and how do we advance respect for diversity and human rights?
What are we doing to showcase Canadian culture abroad?
What is the game plan for each European mission to ensure CETA (Canada-EU trade agreement) implementation and then how do they expand development of trade and investment?
What is the Plan B if the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership fails?
How can we better attract investment and talented immigrants, and encourage foreign students to study in Canada?
What is our China strategy?

In a globalized world, power comes from connectedness and the ability to quickly mobilize coalitions to implement, support or protest. Traditional hierarchies matter less; we need new networks, enabled by technology, that include entrepreneurs, women and civil society organizations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau will need to make it clear that there is a high tolerance for risk and experimentation. Letting our envoys be creative may have diplomatic repercussions; our diplomats need to know that these ministers have their back and that they will adequately fund public diplomacy.

This week’s meeting of our 130 heads of mission coincides with the annual Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers awards, celebrating their roles as consuls, trade commissioners, visa officers, cultural envoys, negotiators, and analysts. Their stories, captured in the foreign service’s publication, bout de papier, are moving tributes to their quiet professionalism on behalf of Canadians.

Diplomacy, the second oldest profession, is enjoying a comeback in the face of a shifting international order. Like the oldest profession, diplomacy also needs to learn new tricks. And, like the oldest profession, diplomacy is still as much art as craft.

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Canada China Relations and Press Freedom

une 5, 2016 11:09 am

Chinese may not care Canadians offended by minister’s outburst: ex-diplomat

Former diplomat Colin Robertson and Senator Jim Munson join Tom Clark for a discussion on the visit to Canada of China’s foreign minister, and his tirade against a journalist.

China’s foreign minister made headlines in Ottawa this week for all the wrong reasons when he took exception to a question posed by a journalist. But experts say it’s unlikely the Chinese care about the bad press.

“They’ll have to deal with damage control,” former diplomat Colin Robertson told the West Block’s Tom Clark.

“But I’m not sure that they care. There are a number of things that take place that they feel they’re getting bad press (on) from the western media.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion stood next to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, seemingly stunned into silence, as the Chinese politician ripped into a journalist from news website iPolitics. Wang called the question on the jailing of a Canadian, Kevin Garratt, “irresponsible.” The question had not, in fact, even been directed at Wang.

 WATCH: China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs blasts Canadian journalist


Current senator and former journalist Jim Munson said he was deeply offended by Wang’s outburst on Canadian soil.

“It was very upsetting,” Munson said.

“He couldn’t have picked a worse time, and particularly for me because I’m quite emotional about this issue, having seen children and adults killed in Tiananmen [Square]. There was a massacre in Tiananmen. And to say this on our territory and to say this about a journalist, my goodness, it hit home again to me what is wrong in China.”

READ MORE: Trudeau says Canada expressed ‘dissatisfaction’ with China for berating reporter

Both Munson and Robertson said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now has a responsibility to address themes of press freedom, the consular immunity of Canadians in China and human rights on his next visit to the country.

“Certainly the first public speech that we make over there would probably have to touch on all those three themes,” said Robertson. “Because you do not want to look like you’re going in to deal with the Chinese on the back foot or from a period of weakness.”

— Watch the full panel discussion above.

THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 37, Season 5
Sunday, June 5, 2016

Host: Tom Clark

Guests: Jim Munson, Colin Robertson

Location: Ottawa

Tom Clark: On this Sunday, China’s foreign minister lashes out at a Canadian journalist for asking about human rights. Well, we’ve got a few more questions.

Tom Clark: Well, in Ottawa last week, China’s foreign minister lashed out at a Canadian journalist for having the temerity to ask about human rights in China. And it happened right in front of Canada’s Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion who remained silent throughout. Take a listen to what happened:

Voice of Interpreter speaking for Wang Yi: I have to say that your question is full of prejudice and against China and arrogance where I don’t know where that come[s] from. And this is totally unacceptable.

Tom Clark: Well joining me now is senator and former journalist Jim Munson and former diplomat Colin Robertson. Welcome to you both. You know what’s ironic about this in some sense is this whole thing comes on the 27th anniversary of the slaughter in Tiananmen Square. You were there Jim, I was there. The Chinese then didn’t apologize, haven’t apologized since, and it seems to me that they’re not about to apologize now for what they’ve said in Canada. What’s your take on that it Jim?

Jim Munson: Tom, look Tiananmen never happened as far as the Chinese government is concerned, as far as this foreign minister is concerned. Talk about timing with Mr. Wang Yi in what he said earlier this week. It was very upsetting. He couldn’t have picked a worse time, and particularly for me because I’m quite emotional about this issue, having seen children and adults killed in Tiananmen. There was a massacre in Tiananmen. And to say this is on our territory and to say this about a journalist, my goodness, it hit home again to me what is wrong in China. And it hasn’t gotten any better, I think, in terms of censorship. In terms of an iron-fisted rule of government, it’s gotten even worse.

Tom Clark: Well I can back you up on what happened in Tiananmen Square, both you and I were there. But Colin, from a diplomatic point of view, does this even enter into a sphere of a diplomatic faux pas or is this just something that we have to put up with when it comes to China?

Colin Robertson: Oh, I think a faux pas. Because it’s going to make it more difficult for the government which is anxious to have some kind of a free trade arrangement with China and we do want to sell more to China to be able to frame this in a way that we don’t look as a supplicant. That’s one of the challenges is that we don’t want to look like we’re trying to give up more. And so that’s why the Chinese, from their perspective, this was what I call in baseball terms, an unforced error. This was unnecessary because they too want to have a good relationship with the new Trudeau government. They’ve made a big deal about Mr. Trudeau and they’ve linked it back to when his father was there with Zhou Enlai. They would like to have this go along seamlessly, so this was unforced error. But I do think that in terms of their attitude towards western media, this was entirely reflective, not just of foreign minister, but at the same time that he was in town we had vice-chair from the (inaudible) in and he said similar kinds of things about the media and irresponsible reporting and highly prejudiced.

Tom Clark: And that was behind closed doors that you heard that.

Jim Munson: And aren’t diplomats supposed to use diplomatic language? I mean I’ve been inside the room with a prime minister when these kinds of things go on in human rights in China with prime ministers and with the president and the prime minister of China. I thought he would at least use diplomatic language. You know he could have come into town, left. Nobody knew he was here and yes, laid the groundwork for an economic free trade agreement. But that did not happen.

Colin Robertson: That’s why I say, Jimmy, unforced because the question wasn’t even to him, so unnecessary to do so. And now they’ll have to deal with damage control. But I’m not sure that they care. There are a number of things that take place that they feel they’re getting a bad press from the western media both on human rights and on cyber. I think there’s certainly much more on cyber which they have to be accountable for that we have to hold them accountable.

Tom Clark: I just want to jump in here for a second just to bolster your credentials. Of course Colin, you served time in China in Hong Kong representing Canada.

Colin Robertson: Yes, I was there through Tiananmen Square in Hong Kong and people coming out.

Tom Clark: Listen, part of the story now becomes how did the Canadian government react to this? I mean here we had somebody who, in my analogy, walked into our living room and defecated on our carpet. And we saw that Stéphane Dion, the Canadian foreign minister, stood their stone-faced, didn’t reply, didn’t say anything at all. But I want you to take a listen. On Friday, Stéphane Dion had a conference call and somebody asked him about this incident. And just listen for a second as to what he said:

Stéphane Dion: “I consider Madam Connolly as a professional with a thick skin and she does not need me to go to her rescue.”

Tom Clark: Need me to go to her rescue. It seems to me that he completely missed the point. This was not about defending a journalist. Surely this is a question of defending some basic values. He was a guest in this country and yet the government has remained almost mum on it. Is that acceptable, Jim?

Jim Munson: Not acceptable. I thought that Mr. Dion from the get-go could have stepped into that at a moment, maybe used some humour at that time and just talked about this is Canada, Mr. Foreign Minister. I’ll answer the question for you. We’ll have lots of time to talk about these things. And foreign ministers do have a responsibility to protect the press. Very briefly, after Tiananmen, I was thrown in the Forbidden City jail covering the anniversary of Tiananmen and still living in Beijing. Well there was a former minister, Barbara McDougall who worked in the Mulroney government, who was given a call to get me out of that jail. I mean Canadians are Canadians are Canadians. This happened on our soil. I mean we can be outraged and upset, but I think that Mr. Dion could have used humour, better language to get out of that situation.

Tom Clark: Colin, let me turn this around a little bit, do we have the capacity when you look at the power imbalance between Canada and China. Do we actually have the power or the capacity to say no to China?

Colin Robertson: Well to say no to what?

Tom Clark: Well say no in the sense of if the Chinese say this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to come in, I’m going to say these things, I’m going to demand that I meet with your prime minister and you’re going to step up to the plate on trade deals. Do we have to take it in other words?

Colin Robertson: I think that we want a positive relationship with China. It will serve our long-term interest for us to have a much improved relationship than what we had. I think the prime minister gets that entirely, so he is reaching to the Chinese leadership that as Senator Munson says that it was a missed opportunity by our foreign minister at that point. But with that done, he moved forward. I think the prime minister has responded and said look we stand up for journalistic freedom. This is an opportunity for him but it does make it harder for the government now to move forward because you’ve seen the Opposition criticism that where the Conservative Party’s coming from in particular and with the relationship with China which was always a bit schizophrenic. But this was an opportunity to stand up on both consular immunity of Canadians, Mr. Garratt, as well as human rights and journalist freedoms. So I think that’s something that you’ve seen echoed now by Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Dion in their subsequent comments. And certainly the first public speech that we make over there would probably have to touch on all those three themes for this very reason because you do not want to look like you’re going in to deal with the Chinese on the back foot or from a period of weakness.

Tom Clark: In the minute we’ve got left, that’s a really interesting point. Do we, when Justin Trudeau goes to China in the fall, does he have to say something on Chinese soil that addresses this whole question of a free press?

Jim Munson: He better do that. He must do that. Mr. Trudeau has an opportunity to be straightforward and talk directly to the Chinese people. We’ve had that about 10 years ago when Mitchell Sharp, our former foreign minister, went to speak at a university in Shanghai to students. Under a previous regime, it’s not that long ago, they didn’t seem to be that fearful of Canada’s voice. You know it’s not a big voice in China but it’s an important voice in China. So absolutely, Mr. Trudeau has to speak in a strong language. What are the Chinese leaderships scared of? Because I mean everything that is said in China is censored anyway, but at least it would give our country a good feeling that our prime minister can speak out, not just for journalists, but for free speech.

Colin Robertson: And consistent with how other prime ministers have done so and foreign leaders. So yes, I think Mr. Trudeau will have to and will do so.

Tom Clark: I want to thank you both for this insight from two people who really know China extremely well. Collin Robertson and Senator Munson, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate it.

 

 

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Rethinking International Assistance

 

How Canada should rethink international assistance

The Globe and Mail Thursday, May 26, 2016

As the federal government rethinks its international assistance policies, it should heed the call from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for transformative change to global humanitarian relief.

This week’s Istanbul humanitarian conference has put the spotlight on the current state of the global relief system and the effort to reform how the world responds to humanitarian crises.

Disasters, natural or man-made, are increasing. So is the number of conflicts as well as failed and failing states. And the current system of international aid is underfunded and overstretched. The UN estimates that 125 million people need humanitarian relief. The need for smarter relief and development assistance is urgent and immediate. Rethinking our international assistance is timely and sensible.

Officials at the Istanbul conference pointed to the breakdown of international norms on asylum, the need to localize aid and frictions between those who provide relief and those who do not. The conference will provide some much-needed context for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Group of Seven leaders, who are looking at aid accountability as part of their broader summit discussions this week in Ise-Shima, Japan.

While the UN is often criticized as nothing more than a talk shop, in recent months it has concluded a global climate accord and set new sustainable development goals – all of which will factor into Canada’s assistance review. The review, running from May to July, promises broad consultation with planned events around governance, pluralism, diversity and human rights as well as peace and security.

The future direction of Canadian assistance is clearly stated in the government’s discussion guide. International assistance is to advance the UN 2030 Sustainable Development agenda while applying “a feminist lens” to help “the poorest and most vulnerable people.” But to expect more money would be “unrealistic … in the current fiscal context.”

While the overall direction has yet to be determined, the differences between the previous Conservative government’s approach – an emphasis on environmental sustainability, gender equality and governance – are likely to be more tonal than substantive.

Nor is former prime minister Stephen Harper’s framework – with its emphasis on untied aid and a selective country focus – likely to change. The Liberal government has also decided, wisely, to maintain the consolidation of diplomacy, trade and development.

Much of Mr. Harper’s signature program, to improve maternal, newborn and child health, also fits into the Liberal paradigm. The government will continue supporting this initiative, but with more support for family planning and greater attention to the root causes of maternal and child mortality.

The success of the government’s development review will hinge on a number of factors.

First, investing more money. Canada currently sits in the bottom half of the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development when it comes to development assistance. While the Liberal government is right to oppose “throwing buckets of money indiscriminately,” more money, well-spent, makes more impact.

As a recent report assessing Canada’s engagement gap put it, we meet the definition of “free riders” when it comes to development and defence. If Britain can devote 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product to development assistance and 2 per cent to defence (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization standard), shouldn’t we at least aspire to this goal?

Second, Mr. Harper was right when he underlined the importance of accountability in development. But let’s do it with a lighter touch, practise risk management and recognize that civil society organizations (CSOs) need multiyear commitments to demonstrate results. Governments insist that CSOs bring their overhead down, yet they drown them in paperwork.

Third, we can’t boil the ocean so we need to focus. Our projects will always reflect our values, but there is nothing wrong with choosing those that also complement our trade and investment interests. In Africa, for example, our development assistance should work in tandem with our resource industries’ investment to demonstrate best-in-class corporate social responsibility.

Fourth, we need to improve and develop Canadian expertise by investing in Canadian CSOs and in youth exchanges. Programs like Canada World Youth gave generations of Canadians their first international experience while giving their foreign counterparts an appreciation of Canada that has opened doors in diplomacy, trade, education and migration.

Finally, donors – especially in the West – are fatigued and skeptical about aid’s effectiveness. The Liberal government should use these consultations to reassure Canadians about the efficacy of development assistance.

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On Ambassador Kevin Vickers ‘unorthodox’ intervention

CTV National interview with Omar Sachedina

http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?playlistId=1.2919579

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 11.20.56 AM

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