Refugee Crisis CTV News

CTV News on the Migrant crisis

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ON the appointment of Hon. Rob Nicholson as Minsiter of Foreign Affairs

CTV Interview February 9 2014 on the appointment of Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson

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On the Visit of Chancellor Merkel and the Ukraine situation

CTV News Channel: Will Putin change tactics?

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson explains whether Putin will agree to anything and stick to a plan or push further into Ukraine.

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John Baird legacy

CBC Power and Politics | Feb 3, 2015 | 6:04 Evan Solomon

John Baird steps down

What does MP’s departure mean for Canadian foreign affairs? Coin Robertson and Fen Hampson

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Senate Testimony North American Integration



OTTAWA, Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 10:30 a.m. to examine the potential for increased Canada-United States-Mexico trade and investment, including in growth areas in key resource, manufacturing and service sectors; the federal actions needed to realize any identified opportunities in these key sectors; and opportunities for deepening cooperation at the trilateral level .

Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.

The Chair: Honourable senators, we’re convened as the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.  We are continuing our study of the potential for increased Canada‑United States‑Mexico trade and investment, including in growth areas in key resource, manufacturing and service sectors; the federal actions needed to realize any identified opportunities in these key sectors; and opportunities for deepening cooperation at the trilateral level.

Colin Robertson, Vice President, and Fellow, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute: Thank you, Madam Chair.  By way of introduction, I served in the Canadian Foreign Service for almost 33 years with a concentration on Canada‑U.S. relations, including postings to the UN in New York while we were on the Security Council in 1977, returning to the consulate general in 1978 during the later Carter and early Reagan administration as one of the crop of junior officers sent to get to know the local congressional delegations as part of our diplomacy in the United States under Allan Gotlieb,  which embraced Congress as well as the administration.  Gotlieb’s I’ll Be With You In a Minute, Mr. Ambassador remains the best how‑to diplomatic guide for Canadian diplomacy in the United States.

I was a member of the Canadian teams for both the Canada‑U.S. free trade and North American free trade negotiations during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and early Clinton administrations.  I served as our consul general in Los Angeles during the later Clinton and early George W. Bush administrations.  Prime Minister Martin appointed me as the first head of the Advocacy Secretariat in Washington to advance our interests on Capitol Hill, working closely with our provinces and using public diplomacy.

During my last two years in the Foreign Service, I worked on a major study on Canada‑U.S. relations with Derek Burney and Fen Hampson at Carleton University to help prepare Canadian policy for what turned out to be the Obama Administration.

On retirement from the Foreign Service, I joined CDFAI and McKenna, Long and Aldridge, a Washington‑based law firm.

By conviction and experience, I favour closer North American integration because it will strengthen Canada and sustain those things that define what it is to be Canadian.

I’ll start with a story.  On the seventh day, God created Canada, a country of mountains, lakes, forests and fish, abundant resources, a peaceable kingdom with people from every land, fleet of foot, especially on skates — Senator Demers.  St. Peter asked God:  Don’t you think you’re being a bit generous to these people?  God smiled at St. Peter and replied:  Just wait until you see the neighbour.

A Foreign Service career gives you the privilege of speaking with our prime ministers, and each one has told me that prime ministers have three main files on their desks:  national security, national unity and the U.S. relationship.

Read Richard Gwyn’s splendid biography of Sir John A. Macdonald and you will appreciate that a preoccupation with our southern neighbour is older than Confederation.  The Mexicans have a similar perspective.  Mexican President Porfirio Diaz, a contemporary of Macdonald, would lament of his nation’s propinquity to the United States:  So far from God, so close to the United States.

But as much as we might complain about Uncle Sam, I have never forgotten the perspective I received as a junior officer at the UN.  A group of us were dumping on the United States after the Carter Administration’s failure to embrace and ratify the East Coast Fisheries Agreement.  A Polish diplomat, his country still under the boot of the Soviet Union, listened to us complain about the Americans.  He then asked us, “Would you rather be us?”  It stopped us short.

Anti‑Americanism is a virus that is deep in our DNA.  My view is that God did us a great favour, not just in our place and people, but also in our neighbour.  We are friends, allies and partners, whether we like it or not and whether they know it or not.

Franklin Roosevelt, probably the president who best understood Canada’s strategic importance to the United States, established with Mackenzie King the framework through which we have conducted relations since 1938.

In return for preferred access to what is still the biggest market in the world, we undertook to be a reliable ally, benefiting from the U.S. security shield.  Having carried more than its fair share of the security load, the U.S. is now asking its allies to step up and do more.  For our own security and to demonstrate our commitment to collective security, we need to invest, especially in building the ships to sustain the maritime order on which our commerce depends.

Successive presidents and prime ministers, the smart ones anyway, have followed this formula of sustaining institutions, security through NATO and NORAD, trade through our multiple trade agreements ‑‑ notably the FTA and NAFTA and leading now to CETA and the Trans‑Pacific Partnership ‑‑ and on the environment, beginning with the IJC and including the acid rain agreement and the Montreal ozone protocol.

Institutions level the playing field and they work to the immense benefit of Canada.

Brian Mulroney, the prime minister who probably best understood the United States, recently observed that “the relationship with the United States is something the prime minister alone has to nurture, the same way he would tend to the most delicate flowers in a garden.  It’s that important.  If you can’t do that, you don’t have much clout internationally.”

Mulroney understood that our leverage internationally comes from the fact that because we understand the United States better than anyone else, we can interpret the rest of the world to the United States and the United States to the rest of the world.  This means reinvesting in our diplomatic service.

We are a North American nation.  We can’t change geography, nor would we want to.  Let us get on with deepening the integration that is already taking place through investment and supply chain dynamics, as well as through the people‑to‑people ties that we enjoy with the United States and that now include Mexico.

I’ll conclude with three recommendations.

First on the U.S., we like to think we know everything about them and they like to think they know everything they need to know about us.  We’re both wrong, but because of the asymmetries of trade and investment, they matter much more to us than we do to them.

As a start, we should have a representative in each U.S. state to act as our ears, eyes and, when necessary, our mouths to make the Canadian case.  When Congress and the states act, it is usually not malice but lack of appreciation of the Canadian perspective.  We need to be there to set the record straight on urban myths like the one still there about the 9/11 terrorists coming from Canada.  It’s not nice diplomatic notes but rather straight talk between friends.  As I have learned, be brief, be blunt and be quick because once a myth takes root, it’s hard to undo it.

Let’s do diplomacy differently and cost‑effectively by hiring from the star‑spangled Canadians already living in the States.  Get them to establish business groups like what we have done in Arizona with the Canada‑Arizona Business Council.  This clever initiative set as its goal to increase the number of direct flights to Arizona.  In a decade, under the leadership of Glenn Williamson, now our honorary consul, they’ve increased from 8 to 100 flights a week.  That translates into an awful lot of trade and investment.  Let’s get to it.

President Obama may be a lame duck, but lame ducks can get a lot done.  We didn’t begin negotiations of the Canada‑U.S. free trade agreement until the final two years of the Reagan Administration.  The acid rain agreement and the North American FTA were negotiated in the last two years of the Bush Administration.  The Canada‑U.S. partnership came together in the last years of the Clinton Administration, and it morphed into the “smart border accord.”

Let’s take the initiative and keep pushing on shared issues like Beyond the Border, regulatory cooperation, as well as the Arctic, energy and environmental collaboration.  Sustainable development is not a choice between the environment and the economy; it’s both together.

Ambassador Bruce Heyman wants to get things done, but he needs our help to resolve problems constructively.  Hectoring and hazing may make for headlines, but it’s not smart diplomacy, and history suggests it’s also poor politics.  Canadians expect mature behaviour when dealing with the U.S.

Second, On Mexico, a window is now open to significantly increase our commercial ties, thanks to the reforms of the Peña Nieto Administration, especially in terms of selling them our energy know‑how, our engineering and infrastructure expertise and in educating the future Mexican leadership at our schools and universities.

The Mexicans want to do business with us.  Our private sector wants convergence on border facilitation and deregulation.  There are real opportunities for Canada in Mexico’s ambitious infrastructure program, including railroads, expanded metros, Mexico City’s new airport and over 10,000 kilometres of new pipelines.  The North American energy revolution means cheap gas will reindustrialize our countries, especially in energy‑intensive industries.  It’s more than oil and gas; it’s investment in electricity plants based on gas.  These are all areas of Canadian expertise.

President Peña Nieto personally selected Ambassador Francisco Suarez to open the doors.  Suarez is a doer but he needs a partner.

To do business, Mexicans need to get here.  Our current visa process is long, arduous and humiliating.  We figured it out with the Czechs, on whom we imposed a visa at the same time as the Mexicans.

The immediate fix would be to recognize Mexicans who qualify for preferred entry to the U.S.A. in the same fashion that the U.S. gives Canada preferred access through the NEXUS program.  Ultimately, we need to bring these trusted traveller programs into alignment.

We should match the Mexican efforts to establish close relations between our universities, not just increasing student exchanges ‑‑ why not aim to quadruple them in next four years ‑‑ but also in joint research projects.

For strategic reasons Mexico should be at the top of our development assistance list, with help in policing and judicial training.

There are still some who think we would be better off just dealing directly with the United States.  They argue trilateralism complicates things.  It does, but surely we can walk and chew gum at the same time.  If the rapidly increasing Canadian investment in mining, banking and now manufacturing in Mexico doesn’t persuade you then consider these two facts:

  • Mexico, with 122 million people, is already America’s second largest trading partner and their trade is growing faster than our own.  Forty per cent of what Mexico sends to the U.S. was sourced out of Mexico.  The figure is 25 per cent for Canada, underlining our integrated trade.
  • There are 51 million Americans with Latino roots, most of them Mexican.  This is a vital voting block.  There are legislators with Latino roots in state houses, Congress, the governors’ mansions and cabinet, and it will not be long before there is one in the White House.

Third, the hidden wiring of Canada‑U.S. relations is the web of relationships beyond the prime minister and president and our cabinets, especially premiers, governors and legislators, federal and state.  We need to expand this wiring with Mexico.

I applaud the work of the revitalized Canada‑U.S.A. Interparliamentary Group, under the leadership of Senator Janis Johnson and MP Gord Brown.   We should integrate the Canada‑U.S. and the U.S.‑Mexico groups to create a North American interparliamentary group.  This would give us a much better chance of sustaining attention from U.S. senators and members of Congress and with our Mexican colleagues we can put pressure on the U.S. to deal with shared interests, like challenges around trucking, border infrastructure and improving the logistical challenges of the supply chains that now cross all our borders.

Like the Canadian geese now flying south that I heard this morning, North American integration has become a force of nature.  Embrace it con mucho gusto to our mutual benefit.  Let North America demonstrate to the world what it means to be a good neighbour.

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Sanctions cut two ways

TV News Channel: Sanctions cut two ways

Colin Robertson of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute talks about the impact of reciprocal sanctions from Russia.
Updated Thursday, August 7, 2014 5:28PM EDT

Canadian pork producers are worried because Russia is banning food imports from Canada, the U.S. and other countries for a year.

The move is in response to sanctions imposed on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.

Russia has the importation banned meat, fish, milk and milk products, fruit and vegetables.

According to Canada Pork International, which represents Canadian pork exporters, Russia was the third largest importer of Canadian pork behind the United States and Japan in 2012.

Last year, Canada exported about $500 million in pork to Russia, 65 per cent of which came from Quebec, said Gaelle Leruste, comminucations advisor for the Quebec Pork Producers Federation.

“The impact will be immediate on processors but will also have an impact on our producers because we’re working together,” Leruste said.

Industry Minister James Moore said the retaliatory sanctions were serious, but since Canada now has free trade agreements with 43 countries, he expected farmers would be able to find new markets.

He also said that Canada would not be deterred from imposing more sanctions on Russia if that country does not cease hostilities in Ukraine.

“It’s very important that Canada and all of our allies and all those who have rhetorically opposed the belligerent and irresponsible behaviour of Mr. Putin stand firm, that we not be intimidated,” said Moore.

Still, Russia represents 10 per cent of the Canadian market for pork products, and farmers want the embargo lifted quickly.

But according to Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who helped implement the North American Free Trade Agreement, that won’t be so simple.

“The problem here is that over half the world doesn’t have sanctions against Russia. The Chinese don’t the Brazilians don’t the South Africans don’t so there are alternate places where Russia can find goods,” he explained.

In a news release, Quebec-based meat packing and food processing company Olymel said it will “every effort to find other outlets for products that were destined for the Russian market in order to reduce the impact of this decision.”

Leruste said with pork prices relatively high and expected to stay that high through to next year, farmers believe they should be able to cope with the sanctions.

So far, there are no plans to compensate farmers for any potential loss in markets, Moore said.

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Ballistic Missile Defence

May 8, 2014 7:20 pm

Ottawa quietly taking another look at ballistic missile defence

Vassy-Kapelos By Parliamentary Correspondent

Watch above: Vassy Kapelos explains how the Canadian government is re-visiting the the idea of joining a ballistic missile defence program.

It’s an age-old debate in Canada, and it’s now being quietly re-visited.

For months, the senate committee on national security and defence has been studying the possibility of joining a NATO/U.S.-led ballistic missile defense program.

The last time Ottawa looked at the possibility, in 2005, they opted out, but sources say this time there could be a different outcome.

“You can just get a sense from the questioning that this is something that the government wants to consider,” said NDP defense critic Jack Harris.

Harris questioned the government on the issue during question period on Thursday, asking directly if the government will participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence program.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence James Bezan responded by noting in the past Canada has declined to participate in ballistic missile defence programs.

“We’ll continue to monitor international developments and also continue to ensure both the safety and security of Canadians both at home and abroad,” Bezan said.

Bezan also noted House and Senate committees are studying the issue.

“We’ll have some collaboration and discussions and make a recommendation and report back to the House of Commons,” Bezan said.

So what has prompted another look at ballistic missile defense? With threats from North Korea, Iran and even Russia, proponents say it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where a missile aimed for the U.S. instead ends up heading towards Canada.

“From a Canadian perspective, the threat has improved such that we are potentially vulnerable, particularly cities like Saskatoon, Edmonton – the cities closer to the border,” said former diplomat Colin Robertson.

Robertson says Canada currently has a seat at the table when allies talk about potential threats.

But, “when it actually comes time to make the decision to launch a missile, unlike the Europeans, Japanese, Australians – we have to leave the room,” Robertson said.

WATCH: Responding to a report from Global News, NDP MP Jack Harris questioned the federal government over it’s willingness to re-enter a NATO- or U.S.-led ballistic missile defence program (May 08)

Critics aren’t convinced there’s a need to join a program.

Steven Staples is President of the Rideau Institute. He argues there’s little proof the missile defense technology even works. “It’s incredibly complicated – what they’re basically trying to do is hit a bullet with a bullet – in space, “Staples said.

Staples also points to cost as an issue; early estimates peg the price of joining a program at $500 million, that could always rise.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Minister of Defense Rob Nicholson told Global News “we look forward to reviewing the report from the Senate committee.”

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On the Keystone XL punt

April 20, 2014 9:27 am

Canada should focus on next U.S. administration for Keystone: former diplomat

By Staff  Global News

After the United States, yet again, pressed the pause button on rendering a decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the time has come for Canada to start focusing its efforts on the people who might form the next administration, said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat.

“Let’s start targeting who’s likely to be the next president of the United States,” he said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “It’s not that you ignore this administration — there’s still work we can get done with this administration — but we need to look forward. We know who the likely candidates will be. We need to educate them on Canada so we don’t have a president again who doesn’t appreciate the strategic importance of Canada.”

READ MORE: Keystone XL pipeline hit by another delay

The proposed pipeline hit yet another delay this long weekend, when the U.S. State Department effectively paralyzed the project, saying it needs more time to prepare its recommendation to President Barack Obama.

Officials said they need to assess the impact of a court battle in Nebraska that could force a change in the pipeline’s planned route, and so extended the deadline for government agencies to comment, punting the decision past the November mid-terms.

The Prime Minister’s Office was quick to voice its disappointment of the decision, saying the decision was politically motivated.

Robertson, who was at the State Department two days before the move was announced, agreed, saying he has no doubt the move was taken under direction from the White House.

READ MORE: Albertans invited to testify at US hearings on Keystone XL pipeline

“They made the political calculation that as they go into what’s going to be a very difficult November election for the Democrats and the president,” he said. “Everybody understands, the positioning is pretty clear on both sides. This is a political decision, made for political reasons, everything to do with the mid-terms.”

The news from the State Department came just two days after 10 Nobel laureates, including former president Jimmy Carter, signed a letter urging Obama to reject the pipeline proposal.

While ex-presidents and Nobel laureates can try with all their might to influence the president’s decision, their attempts won’t likely be successful, said David Jacobson, former U.S. ambassador to Canada.

“You’d be a fool not to respect Nobel laureates, but I think everybody understands that the only Nobel laureate that’s really going to have a voice in this is one of the last winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, and that’s Barack Obama,” Jacobson said in an interview with Tom Clark.

“There’s a process that’s going on … and I’m not sure letters like the one that came from President Carter and the other Nobel laureates is really going to have all that much impact on the process.”

Signing that letter, Carter became the first former president to come out against Keystone XL.

The Prime Minister’s Office quickly swung back, cautioning the United States to remember 1979, when the oil supply dipped following the Iranian revolution, sparking global panic.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Trilateral Summit

CBC The National on Harper Visit to Mexico

Power Play: Frosty meeting in Mexico?

Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foundation, and Colin Robertson, a former diplomat, discuss the relationships of the free trade partners. Staff
Published Monday, February 17, 2014 10:01PM EST

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has arrived in Mexico to meet with his North American counterparts with a plan to boost Mexican travel to Canada, despite the controversial visa requirements.

The Canadian Press reports that Trade Minister Ed Fast has been authorized to sign an expanded airline access agreement with Mexico.

The agreement would give Mexican airlines greater access to more Canadians cities, while Canadian travellers would benefit from more direct flights to Mexico, according to CP.

The expanded airlines agreement is seen as a pathway to eventually lifting the visa requirements Ottawa imposed on Mexican travellers in 2009 to deter bogus asylum seekers.

Senior officials have confirmed to CTV News that Harper is not expected to lift the visa requirements any time soon. But there are rumblings that a fast-track process for frequent, pre-approved Mexican travellers – similar to the Nexus program — could be put in place.

The visa issue has been a source of tension between Canada and Mexico and is expected to cast a shadow over the North American leaders’ summit. There are also tensions between U.S. and Canada over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said Monday that signalling an eventual lifting of the visa requirement is important because of the significance of Canada’s trade relationship with Mexico.

“I would be surprised if we don’t come out of (the summit) with at least something that gives the Mexicans what they are asking for, which is a pathway to lifting the visa,” he told CTV’s Power Play.

But Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foundation says the leaders of the three countries – often referred to as “the Three Amigos” – are now “perhaps worse than rivals.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more depressed about the state of relations,” he told Power Play. “The Mexicans are mad at us, and in Canada, we’re mad at the Americans and the Americans seem to have had it up to here with both of us.”

He said he doesn’t foresee anything positive coming out of the summit, and believes most of the time will be spent on “damage control.”

Harper will meet on Tuesday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and then participate in the North American leaders’ summit with U.S. President Barack Obama.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper reviews the honor guard after a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ninos Heroes monument, or Children Heroes, in Mexico City, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. (AP / Eduardo Verdugo)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Mexico City, Mexico on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Piden a Canadá eliminar Visa para paisanos

17 / febrero / 2014Solicitan diputados y senadores eliminar el requerimiento de visa para los connacionales que viajen al país de la hoja de maple

VisaLa Visa es requerida desde junio de 2009.


Diputados y senadores mexicanos pidieron nuevamente a la delegación de parlamentarios canadienses que se elimine el requerimiento de Visa para los connacionales que viajen al país de la hoja de maple.

Al tomar la palabra, el presidente de la Mesa Directiva en San Lázaro, Ricardo Anaya recordó que la solicitud no es una concesión o una excepción sino que responde al restablecimiento de la buena y cordial relación que existe entre ambas naciones.

“La visita a México el próximo mes de febrero del primer ministro canadiense Stephen Harper, nos parece, sería un marco extraordinario para el anuncio del regreso a nuestra normalidad histórica, del regreso de lo que ha sido la práctica común, la no necesidad de una visa para que los mexicanos entremos a Canadá”, exigió el panista en el evento inaugural de la XIX reunión interparlamentaria México-Canadá y aseguró que quitar el visado aportaría beneficios por igual a ambos pues desde que se instauró la medida, en junio de 2009, la visita de paisanos se ha reducido en 50% pues pasó de una afluencia de 300 mil viajeros al año a 150 mil.

Sin embargo, el diputado también reconoció ante su homólogo canadiense, Andrew Sheer, que el gobierno ese país optó por esa medida debido al abuso de solicitudes de asilo político mal sustentado y al ‘boom’ de oficinas de intermediarios que hacían negocios con el trámite de los documentos.

Al respecto la prensa canadiense de corte liberal y algunos órganos empresariales, también ha presionado por la eliminación de la Visa pues considera que “si Canadá quitó el requisito a la República Checa para concretar su acuerdo de libre comercio con la Unión Europea, debe hacer lo mismo con México”, opinó Colin Robertson, vicepresidente del Instituto Canadiense de Defensa y Asuntos Exteriores en una entrevista.

En tanto, el Consejo Canadiense de Directores Ejecutivos, principal organismo empresarial de esta nación, advierte que México y Canadá “no podrán reimpulsar sus relaciones diplomáticas y de inversión hasta que la visa sea modificada o eliminada”.

Sin embargo, a días de que el primer Ministro Stephen Harper arribe para la cumbre de Norteamérica, una fuente gubernamental adelantó que el Gobierno no prevé cambios próximamente “No tenemos la intención de quitar la vis. Hemos implementado numerosas medidas para facilitar la entrada a visitantes legítimos”, dijo un funcionario anónimo a Canadian Press.

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Canadian Policy in the Indo-Pacific



OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 4:15 p.m. to study security conditions and economic developments in the Asia-Pacific region, the implications for Canadian policy and interests in the region, and other related matters.

Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair. We are pleased to have before us Mr. Colin Robertson, Vice President, of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, as well as a fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

Colin Robertson, Vice President, and Fellow, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute: By way of background, I served in the Canadian Foreign Service for almost 33 years.  Since leaving the Foreign Service, I worked as vice‑president of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute, a non‑partisan think tank based out of Calgary that is aligned with the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.  I should note that, next March, the school is going to host a conference on Canadian geopolitics, trade and the shaping of relationships in the Indo‑Pacific with Robert Kaplan.  I’m also a senior adviser to McKenna, Long and Aldridge, a Washington‑based law firm, and we have Asian clients.  As a volunteer, I serve with great pride as an honourary captain in the Royal Canadian Navy attached to the Strategic Communications Directorate.  I am also current chair of Canada World Youth, a youth leadership program, as many of you know founded by the late Senator Jacques Hebert, and we have long had interests in Asia.  This gives you a sense of where I come from, but my five observations are my own and do not represent those of any of the hats I wear.

I served as consul in Hong Kong for five years with accreditation to China.  I would travel north to Gangzhou to observe the economic progress.  I would take the Star Ferry, then get on the train in Kowloon and travel through the New Territories, crossing in Shenzhen.  During that time, that small town literally changed from bucolic rice paddies and oxen into a thriving, ramshackle city of many millions.  There was no regard for environmental and labour standards, but there was remarkable energy and a determination to get it done.  Shenzhen was the wild west of the Orient.  For me, it visibly illustrated the Deng Xiaoping transformative influence and his conclusion that it doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black as long as it catches mice.

I’ve travelled much of Asia since then, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, including a week 18 months ago in Tibet.  I travelled on the Trans-Siberian Express through Beijing, through Mongolia and Siberia to St. Petersburg.

This leads me to my first observation.  While we have a tendency to speak of Asia as an entity, it is a continent of different regions, religions, ethnicities and languages.  There are democracies and there are dictatorships.  Our policies need to reflect these basic facts.  An Asian policy is a misnomer.  One size does not fit all.  If we are to effectively advance Canadian interests, we need to tailor policies by country, by region and by sector.

Everywhere in my travels I would meet people with friends and relatives in Canada.  We are much envied, and this takes me to my second observation.  Through ties of family, Asian Canadians give us privileged entree to Asian markets.  They are our best salespersons to attract more talent to our country as either immigrants or students.

As an example, we just have to look at the composition of this committee, of the Senate and the House of Commons to know that there are a number of members in both chambers that were born in Asia, have come to Canada and are now making a contribution to Canadian life in this very chamber.

Canada is the envy of the world when it comes to practical pluralism, and we need to do more to market this as we grow our population.  We have a large and vibrant Asian community in Canada.  Vancouver has often been called the most Asian city outside of Asia.  We should embrace this identity and present ourselves as a Pacific country.

We have not always appreciated education as a service industry.  It is Australia’s fourth largest export.  Our government is getting its act together after initial ambivalence, but we are playing catch‑up and we are well behind the U.S.A., U.K. and Australia, where once we led.  In Asian culture, the best advertisement is through family ties.

I’m frequently asked by Chinese diplomats why we do not do more with Norman Bethune.  Whatever his politics, he is a Chinese hero, so why should we not draw on this advantage?  Bethune, in my view, should feature more prominently in our outreach to China.  Why not, for example, Bethune scholarships modelled after the successful Fulbright program?

As we reform our Foreign Service, we should also target Asian Canadians who have the practical language skills and family ties that make all the difference.  Let’s use our historical ties, trade ties dating back over a century through insurance, banking and shipping, as well as missionaries, teachers and doctors.

While posted in Asia, I travelled up the Khyber Pass with a Khyber rifle as the Russians were leaving Afghanistan.  In Peshawar, we watched Afghan refugees play buzkashi using the traditional carcass of a headless goat.  On the Afghan side, it was said they played the game with the heads of Russians.

Canadians fought in Asia during the Second World War, Korean War and as peacekeepers in Indochina and the Kashmir.  We are still in Afghanistan.  While in Hong Kong, I would annually lay a wreath in Sai Wan cemetery for Sergeant John Osborn, VC, who they later named the Osborn Barracks in Winnipeg after.

Security is still a life‑and‑death matter in Asia.  If this is to be the Pacific century, then we need to pay close attention to what happens in North Korea and the disputed islands in the north Pacific and south and east China seas.  Given China’s recent declaration of an air identification zone, Canada’s interests in issues of maritime law and freedom of navigation in that part of the world are as important to our long‑term prosperity and security as those in our own waters.

It starts with sea power and maritime command.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of global trade goes by sea.  The busiest sea lanes are those in the Indo‑Pacific.  Shop at Canadian Tire?  At any moment, a third of their inventory is at sea.  The same would apply to the Hudson’s Bay Company and other merchants.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is campaigning to get our oil and gas to tide water, and the government has just announced its economic diplomacy initiative.  Both depend on getting our goods by sea across the Indo‑Pacific.  Half the world’s shipping, with cargo valued at $5.3 trillion, passes through the South China Sea.  That’s more than 41,000 ships a year ‑‑ more than double the number that pass through the Suez Canal and nearly triple those that pass through the Panama Canal.

Our trade and commerce depends on these sea routes being secure.  All of this to support my third observation:  We want to trade in Asia, but first we must exhibit our bona fides on security.  If we want into the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting, we need to demonstrate that we are as invested and interested in the security of the Indo‑Pacific, especially the North Pacific, as we are in the North Atlantic.  This means building our promised fleet and deploying our submarines, and maintaining the readiness of our expeditionary capacity.

There are a couple of other things we can do to be constructive.  Ten days ago Canada hosted 50 nations at the fifth annual Halifax International Security Forum.  The forum for democracies, originally those of the trans‑Atlantic, it focuses on security and defence.

Apply this model on our West Coast and invite the Indo‑Pacific nations to our Pacific coast and focus attention on trade and security.  If it did nothing more than provide a forum to entangle the facts about the disputed islands ‑‑ a Track Two  approach ‑‑ it would have done good work.

As Churchill observed, “to jaw‑jaw is better than to war‑war.”

And let’s not forget that our engagement across the Pacific starts on this side of the Pacific with the Pacific Alliance, and if they’re interested, the United States.  This would also underline our commitment to the Trans‑Pacific Partnership negotiations that Dr. Curtis has just spoken about.

On North Korea, our policy of controlled engagement is counterproductive and needs to be revised if we are to be helpful to regional security.  Introduced in 2010, it limits discussions with the North Koreans to issues of regional security concerns, human rights and consular issues.  This effectively means no engagement with the north, because they don’t want to talk to us about these.  This does not help our friends in South Korea.  The Kim Jong‑un regime is bad, mad and dangerous, but this is all the more reason why we should be engaged.

This leads to my fourth observation.  It also means being there.  We can’t achieve our economic diplomacy goals without an active, official Canadian presence.  Unlike the West, a government presence in Asia is a big deal.  This means opening more consulates, especially in China and India, and don’t forget Indonesia.

This means having ministers and the Prime Minister lead trade delegations of Canadian business.  This is how business is done.  For decades, partly a reflection of minority governments and austerity, we were out of the game.  Just because Jean Chrétien, a Liberal, pioneered Team Canada Missions of premiers and CEOs doesn’t mean that Stephen Harper, a Conservative, shouldn’t do the same.  Promoting Canadian trade is not about politics; it’s about putting bread on the table.

Jim Prentice has observed Chinese investment into Canada has slowed.  We need to make it clear that we welcome Chinese investment.  At the same time, we should work with our like‑minded partners ‑‑ the U.S., Australia, New Zealand ‑‑ through the Trans‑Pacific Partnership to come up with a code of conduct for state‑owned enterprise investment; make clear the rules of the road.  Governor General Johnson recently made a visit to China and met with President Xi Jinping.  Encourage Prime Minister Harper to do the same and make it a regular practice.  The Australians do.

And let’s put into force our foreign investment promotion and protection agreement.

The Chinese see us as a potential bridge to the West, especially the United States.  It is up to us to build the bridge and profit from the relationship.  Remember Deng Xiaoping’s observation on white and black cats:  It doesn’t matter as long as it catches the mice.

A final recommendation:  Our policy must have a democracy angle; it’s who we are as a people.  Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong are all middle‑income countries possesses nascent democratic institutions.  We should engage with them, not just government to government and student to student, but party to party.

In conclusion, we can trade successfully in Asia and the Indo‑Pacific but we need to make commensurate contribution to its regional security.  To protect and enhance our interests and build partnerships, we need to be a credible player, respected by all friends and foes alike.  This requires long‑term strategic engagement in the region with the necessary dedicated assets to make it happen, and being there frequently and often.

Start by making full use of the people‑to‑people relationships we enjoy thanks to our shared history and ties of family, actively contribute to the development of democratic institutions, and never forget the power of the maple leaf in close, continuing engagement in support of Canadian interests.

Senator Downe: Chair, I know others have questions.  I have one quick final one for Colin.

Mr. Robertson, your point four and five, as you know, Canada spends over $1 billion on international assistance in the region.  Would you see our money better spent, if you had a choice, allocated towards a larger presence: embassies, government offices, trade offices?  Or to your point number five about having a democracy, is the money better spent in reinforcing a strong public service, judiciary and institutions within these fragile democracies already in the region?

Mr. Robertson: Senator, I think you can do both.  You have to be there to have effect but, at the same time, working through institutions on the democracy front.  I think it is probably more effective for us and for it to be seen as Canadian.

I’ll give you an example.  When I was in Hong Kong, we brought over the former commissioner of the Northwest Territories.  We brought over the Chief Electoral Officer.  We brought over a whole series of practical experts in how you run elections and how you run a democracy.  That was extremely well received, and still does us good in Hong Kong.  We couldn’t have done that if we didn’t have that presence on the ground.

We worked with the local Chinese, we worked with the government of Hong Kong.  They were happy that we brought these over, and we were simply there to try and help support the growth of representative and democratic institutions.  We weren’t selling them a particular brand of democracy, but saying this is what it was about.  But we couldn’t have done that if we didn’t have the people on the ground.

Senator D. Smith: To relieve you, I won’t muse about my early trip to China when Mao was living ‑‑

The Chair: Thank you.  We have very little time.

Senator D. Smith: ‑‑ or Chrétien or team Canada or even visiting Colin when he was consul.

But I’d really like both of your thoughts on what I regard as a litmus paper issue, and it’s this disputed island issue.  I mean, you’ve seen the videos; they’re rocks.  It’s hard to make a case that it’s a strategic defence thing.  They really don’t have a strong legal case, and it kind of strikes me that this is really a muscle thing.  It’s an ego thing.  It’s kind of a statement, “Look, we’re a world power,” and one of two.  They passed Japan two years ago as the second strongest economy in the world, and they will pass the U.S., maybe not in my lifetime but within a couple decades, I’m sure.

I’m just wondering how both of you interpret this sort of muscle statement that’s got to put their neighbours off a bit, but is there some benefit to this?  How do you interpret this very aggressive disputed island claim?

Mr. Curtis: This is yours, Colin.  I’ll only make one point.  Depends which islands one is talking about.  I’ll assume it’s the ones in the East China Sea, not the south.

Senator D. Smith: Yes.

Mr. Curtis: If one looks at history, my understanding is historically those were Chinese islands, as was Tibet, but in the last hundred or so years they’ve been Japanese islands from the treaty.  I’m not sure that history should dominate everything; it causes all sorts of troubles in other parts of the world, as we all know.  But at least it’s important to understand where China is coming from, not that it’s excusable.  If one at least looks at the history and tried to figure out if there is any basis of these territorial claims.  Really, it’s Colin’s point.

Maybe I can make a final comment.  I always say the Chinese and the Americans basically deserve each other.

Mr. Robertson: Senator, I would say that the history is disputed but, from a Canadian perspective, in the late 1980s and early 1990s we had something called the North Pacific dialogue.  We were trying to be useful on this very subject with China and Japan.  Joe Clark was foreign minister and Brian Mulroney was the Prime Minister.  It was actually a useful initiative which we called Track II, which I know this committee has heard about from other witnesses.  I think that could be something useful that Canada could do.

I was recently at the Japanese ambassador’s residence and they had over one of their scholars who was here to basically give us the Japanese perspective on those disputed islands.

Senator D. Smith: Make their case on it.

Mr. Robertson: And he has a different perspective than that which John just outlined as to who owned what.  But I asked him specifically, I said, “Could we be helpful?”  And he said yes, the whole idea of a Track II, of just getting the facts out.

That’s what I was talking about in my statement.  This is dispute.  Better they should be talking.

Senator D. Smith: What do you think is driving it?

Mr. Robertson: Partly, the new leadership in China has got to somehow try and ‑‑ there has been for a long time an active nationalist movement.  You just read some of the blogs translated from the Chinese.  It would disturb you to read how anti‑Japanese it is.  I witnessed this when I was in Hong Kong since then.  Trying to contain that, they have to let a bit of the steam out and that’s part of what we’re seeing.  There are also those forces within China, because remember we have those who aren’t happy to see the direction the new leadership is taking, which they see as perhaps too western inclined.  So from our perspective it’s important that this not get out of hand.  The danger would be the kind of incident we saw in 2001 when an American plane knocked down a Chinese jet that got too close.  Fortunately, at the time George W. Bush kept that thing from getting out of hand.  You want to avoid this thing becoming more than it is.

I should share with you, I was in Stanford January this year and met with Frank Fukuyama, the great political philosopher, and he said to me the one area of the world he really worried about, I asked him looking forward, was exactly what we are witnessing right now.  He said he thought this could be the new Sarajevo.  Don’t forget, as I observed to the committee, in many ways China today is analogous to where Germany was in the last century, a growing economic power.  We didn’t handle Germany very well in the first half of the last century.  We’ve got to be sure that we handle China much better this century because the stakes are much higher and the weaponry that we can employ are much more devastating.

Senator Johnson: Mr. Robertson, can I ask you something very important?  I know how much work you do with the United States.  Can you tell us what the short‑ and long‑term implications for Canada’s profile are in this region and these regions, with its November 2013 agreement with the United States on Asia‑Pacific defence policy cooperation?

Mr. Robertson: We have managed the North Atlantic through NATO.  We don’t have anything similar in the Pacific, and the United States through its pivot is starting to create a brace of agreements.  They have some going back; they have a certain number of defence agreements already in place with some of the nations there, but the United States is determined it will put 60 per cent of its navy in the Indo‑Pacific.  They are trying to create a network, a kind of de facto alliance, which is similar to what has secured the sea lanes and kept trade flowing in the Atlantic for the last half century.  It is in everybody’s interests, including those of the Chinese, to ensure that those sea lanes are secure, and if this kind of an agreement can help manage that, that’s a good thing.

Senator Housakos: I’ll try to be brief.  Without a doubt, in the last couple of decades, trade between Canada and Asia‑Pacific has been growing exponentially, in large part us shipping out natural resources to Asia‑Pacific and, of course, receiving back finished goods, but if you look at the same period of time as we’ve continued to exchange growth with our two main trading partners, the United States and the EU, two sectors that have also grown in large part have been our technological sector and our service sector.  Those two sectors have grown in leaps and bounds with our trade with the United States and with the EU.

I would like your perspective in terms of those two sectors, vis‑à‑vis how have they been going in the last decade or so in the Far East, in the Asia‑Pacific areas.  What are the impediments, if there have been any, and what are the prospects for increased technological sector trade and service sector trade between Canada and Asia‑Pacific?

Mr. Robertson: Obviously, this reinforces again the importance of having the agreements in place.  What we’re basically asking Asia to do is to sign up for trade architecture that we designed in the west.  That’s, from our perspective, a good thing, the fact that China and India and other nations are doing so, which would take me to answer the FIPA question:  Yes, I think we should put into force the FIPA and continue to move forward because that’s one way to create openings for Canadian companies so they can trade with greater assurance and dealing with problems, intellectual property theft and things like that; but at the same time bringing Asia into how the West does business certainly works to our mutual advantage.

The Chair: I have three other questioners.  I’m going to ask that the questions be put and perhaps both panellists can respond.

Senator Dawson: You are early in our process in the development of this study.  Mr. Robertson, you mentioned Team Canada.  I’m a big fan of Team Canada.  I think it was a very good approach.

We have to start focusing.  Excluding China and India, if we were to have a Team Canada approach, what would be your target? I understand the question of transport, security and the Maritimes, but what are the countries that we should be targeting in our study?

Mr. Robertson: In my view, it’s obviously the big ones.

The Chair: Let’s ask the questions first, and then you can reflect on the answers together.

Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you.  I had many questions, but I think I’ll stick to the shortest one.

You mentioned that Canada needs to make contributions to security.  What are you talking about specifically, current involvement in Afghanistan, where we’re there as teachers and trainers?  Or are you looking at something more?

I enjoyed your references to Peshawar, Buzkashi and Khyber Pass.  You know only the brave and the crazy go through that area now!

Senator Oh: Basically, I would like to make one point.  Mr. Curtis, you mentioned about the disputed island that belongs to China, but back in history, the island was under China’s control for a long time, since day one.  In fact, when World War II was over, China was having a civil war going on.  The Chinese side was in a mess.  They had no one to receive anything after the war, and the island was to be returned to China.

In fact, a few years ago, China was asked to defer the disputed island to the international court.  But for the last 10 years, the new Japanese regime, which is more military style, started disputing the island.  The dispute has escalated until today where so far, internationally, no other country has sided with Japan on the disputed island.

The Chair: I’ll start with you, Mr. Robertson, to answer any of those questions or to make comments, and then I’ll turn to Dr. Curtis.

Mr. Robertson: Senator Dawson, on Team Canada, I think it really does work, particularly because of the importance of having your political leadership be seen visibly to open the doors for business.  This is how Asia works.  It’s not how the West works but it’s how Asia works, so that’s another reason why expanding our diplomatic presence is a very good thing because the flag really does make a difference.

Again, this is not a partisan statement.  Prime Minister Chrétien understood this, as did Prime Minister Mulroney and Prime Minister Trudeau.  The Team Canada approach, in my observation, was the most effective approach because it involved our political leadership at various levels.  The federal level, obviously led by the Prime Minister, makes a huge difference.  The premiers do this already.  The premiers have made several trips in the last few years to effect, particularly from Western Canada.  I think that is something we want to encourage.

You asked about the countries.  Obviously, the countries with the biggest market potential are China, India and Indonesia, but this is where I would endorse and take a hard look at the fine print in the government’s new Global Markets Action Plan, which they have just announced.  They have actually broken things down aggregately:  Here are the markets we want to look at.  This is a very good thing.  Forget about the politics of this economic diplomacy; we actually now have a blueprint of how to approach countries where we can make a difference.  It was done by the hard work of people in the field and at home.

Again, I think there should be a Team Canada mission led by the Prime Minister every year involving premiers.  It would be a very good thing.

On security, I think building our fleet is the biggest thing we can do because that’s the coin of the realm in terms of security.  Being out there, it’s a big ocean, and we do have to protect those sea lanes.  The Americans have already signaled with sequester and budget cuts that they are looking to the allies to play up, and the Asians have told us that if we want to play, they want to see us contributing to that broader security.  And I would align to that, because Canada can do this extremely well.  Both the Asians and the Americans have told me this.  If we were to hold the kind of Track 2 Pacific dialogue we hosted in the late 1980s, early 1990s ‑‑ and I used the Halifax International Security Forum as an example because it’s a splendid example of a Canadian model that works extremely well.  I would apply it, take it to the West Coast and discuss the kinds of issues we are talking about ‑‑ the disputed islands and the rest ‑‑ but I would make it about a balance of trade and security, and I would obviously include countries that are not currently democracies.

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